State permits sunscreen in schools
Sending children back to school for their fall semester might bring to mind the cooler weather of autumn, but in the Deep South, the hot summer sun will still blaze for a couple more months. Schoolchildren can now more easily protect themselves from sun overexposure with a new state law permitting sunscreen use.
A new law (Act 2017-278) allows Alabama school students to apply personal sunscreen at school without the need for special permission from a doctor or parent. The law includes both public and private schools and went into effect earlier this summer.
Russellville City Schools Superintendent Heath Grimes said he supports the bill – although prior to its passage, RCS “used common sense” when it came to sunscreen use anyway.
“It just allows parents to send sunscreen with their students, of which we’re appreciative,” Grimes said. “We don’t feel there’s a need to control sunscreen anyway, so this is a relief for us.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, application of sunscreen while outdoors is a simple step to protect oneself from the harm of overexposure to sunlight’s UVA and UVB rays. A sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher should be applied at least every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.
And although much of the school day is set indoors, children are also often exposed to the sun during school hours, whether that’s for recess, a lesson in an outdoor classroom setting or for PE/after-school athletics.
“If they’ve ever been to a track meet in the spring, and you tell a kid they can’t have sunscreen – I think that’s a good law (to allow sunscreen),” Franklin County Schools Superintendent Greg Hamilton said. “I coached for a long time, and the kids would just get burned up. I think this is a good thing.”
Hamilton said in his mind, there was never any reason for restrictions against sunscreen being brought to school and used during the school day, and he suspects that rule was not always followed.
Dr. Tom Miller, state health officer at the Alabama Department of Public Health, said the new permissions should be a step toward preventing melanoma and other skin cancers.
“We know that sunburn, particularly in childhood, increases your risk for skin cancer,” he said. “Applying sunscreen before outside school activities will prevent overexposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, thus preventing many forms of skin cancer – including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.”
Previously, students were unable to use sunscreen unless prescribed by a physician. With the passage of this law, no rules of the State Board of Education or the Alabama Board of Nursing will apply to Food and Drug Administration-approved over-the-counter sunscreen.
Alabama is among a growing number of states – like Arizona, California, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington State – that lawfully permit students’ use of sunscreen at school.
For more information about sun safety go to http://www.adph.org/skincancer/ or https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/.