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49 States Have School Anti-sunscreen Policies

Posted: June 25, 2012

After a school sunscreen ban left two Tacoma, Washington, elementary students severely burned, their mother is taking on the school district.

Jesse Michener's daughters Violet, 11, and Zoe, 9, set out from their home Tuesday, June 19, for an all-day school event. The morning had been a rainy one but by noon the rain gave way to sun, and the girls began to burn. Violet and Zoe were not allowed to apply sunscreen due to a school policy against it, even though Zoe suffers from a form of albinism, a genetic condition that makes her particularly sun-sensitive.

“I was feeling all hot," Zoe Michener told TODAY. "I noticed that my shoulders were really more warmer than other parts of my body.” Her sister Violet also began to feel the heat: “I was playing games with my friends and that's when I basically started feeling like I was burning up.”

Their mother said seeing her girls walk through the door was a moment she'll never forget. “It was horrifying to see (Violet’s) bright red face. There were welts, she was swollen and then I saw Zoe's shoulders. It was absolutely painful and gut-wrenching to look at. I was horrified.” The burns were so severe, Michener whisked her daughters to the local hospital for examinations.

When Michener pressed school officials on the ban, they told her that there is a state-wide policy that does not allow staff to apply sunscreen to students, and students can only apply it themselves if they have a doctor’s note. The law exists because the additives in lotions and sunscreens can cause an allergic reaction in children, and sunscreens are regulated by the FDA as an over-the-counter drug. Michener discovered that the policy exists in 49 states nationwide; California is the only state to allow sunscreen in school without a doctor’s note.