Hot Topic: Lifting the Sunblock Ban in Washington State Schools

Target: Dr. Maxine Hayes, State Health Officer of the Washington State Department of Health

Goal: Provide better sun protection for school children by revising current sunscreen restrictions and allowing sunscreen at Washington State schools.

A Washington law which prohibits students from carrying and applying sunscreen while at school (that is, without a note from a doctor) is making a Tacoma mother see red—literally. When Jesse Michener saw how badly burned her two young daughters were after coming home from a school-run field day, she was so worried about the severity of the girls’ burns that she took them to a nearby hospital. Making matters even worse, both of the girls (Violet and Zoe) have a form of albinism which makes them even more susceptible to sun damage.

Jesse regrets not sending her daughters off to school with a proper layer of protection when they left in the morning (it was raining), however she still wishes that the school could have better accommodated their need to reapply the sun block when once at school. However, according to current school rules they would not be able to. “They couldn’t even reapply sunscreen without a doctor’s note. They couldn’t carry that in their backpacks,” explains Michener.

Although sunscreen has been approved by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug, many school districts across the country limit its use on school campuses out of fear of adverse effects to sensitive students. “Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause allergic reaction in children, you have to really monitor that,” Dan Voelpel, the Tacoma School District spokesman defends.

With summer here, and the sunny weather becoming more intense with each passing day, there is growing concern about the health of students both now and for the future (since sun damage at a young age can radically raise one’s risk of skin cancer in the later years). In order to better protect children’s skin health for the present and future, the current restrictions on sunblock in school need to be revised.


Dear Dr. Hayes,

As we delve into summer and the risk of sun damage increases with the temperature, it becomes even more important to protect ourselves from the harsh rays of the sun. A current statewide school rule prohibits students from carrying and applying sunscreen while at school without a note designating a doctor’s permission.

Children, who are already susceptible to sun damage (especially those with levels of albinism), need the support of the school systems in warding off the damaging rays. With the bulk of the day passing during school hours, the school districts need to better accommodate for the skin protection needs.

I urge you to revise the current rules that ban sunscreen from schools. As an example of good health, schools need to better prepare and protect children from lasting sun damage.


[Your Name Here]

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