How Associations Are Changing Up School Sunscreen Rules

You may not think of sunscreen as medication, but the FDA does, and so do many schools. School rules restricting suncreen use lead to dangerous sun exposure for students, dermatology associations say---and they're working to ensure kids are protected, one state at a time.

One of the most well-known songs played at high school graduations over the years is titled “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” and as it turns out, the title is more true today than when the spoken-word song first went viral 20 years ago.

Many schools across the country strictly control students’ use of sunscreen, which the Food and Drug Administration classifies as an over-the-counter drug. Students can bring it in only if they have a doctor’s note, and they can put it on only in the school nurse’s office. But associations in the dermatology field are taking steps to ensure kids are free to use sunscreen at school.

According to Stateline, six states—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Utah, and Washington—have passed laws this year allowing sunscreen to be used during school activities. Similar measures were already on the books in California, New York, Oregon, and Texas, and legislators in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are currently working on their own bills.

The change is being pushed by the American Academy of Dermatology Association and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association. Model legislation drafted by ASADA has been used by several states in writing their own laws. Last month, ASDSA’s SUNucate initiative was named the winner of a Power of A Gold Award by ASAE.

“This recognition from ASAE affirms the continued success of our initiative to create a culture of sun-safe behavior in younger generations,” ASDSA President Thomas E. Rohrer, M.D., said in a statement.

Other groups, such as the nonprofit Sun Safety for Kids, have also long been focused on the issue. The group has been particularly active in California, which passed its law exempting sunscreen from school medication rules in 2002.

Some healthcare professionals have raised concerns about easing school sunscreen rules. The Rhode Island Certified School Nurse Teachers Association, for example, opposes that state’s bill because of liability concerns and because some students have sunscreen allergies.

“We’re not against sunscreen,” the group’s president, Diane Kowal, told Stateline. “There just needs to be language to protect everyone, from the person putting it on to the kids sharing it.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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