The federal Food and Drug Administration classifies sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug product. That means school districts in Kentucky and across the nation can put conditions on students using sunscreen at public schools.
Now a state lawmaker wants Kentucky to join several states that have passed laws clarifying that children can take sunscreen to school and self-apply it there.
State Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, has filed House Bill 107, in the 2018 General Assembly that would require local boards of education to adopt a policy allowing students to carry and self-administer sunscreen in school; while participating in a school-sponsored activity; and in before- and after-school care or summer care programs provided by the school.
Under the legislation, a local school board could decide to allow school employees to voluntarily help students apply sunscreen, and the school employee could get liability protection, Reed said.
“I think a child should be able to put sunscreen on” when they go outside and play, Reed said in an interview. “When you go out on the playground, you can’t bring 30 children by the nurse’s station to get sunscreen.”
Reed said his bill did not specifically call for a parent note, but said he did not have a problem with parents sending a note to school saying their child could apply sunscreen. Reed said he thinks Kentucky school districts vary in their sunscreen policies and practices.
Mary Branham, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, said that group helps 172 Kentucky school districts with policies and she thought only one school district, Fayette, currently explicitly includes the word sunscreen in their over-the-counter medication policy. Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Fayette County’s policy says students may self-administer sunscreen with parent permission. Deffendall said in practice, many staff members are helping students apply the sunscreen.
Other districts have general policies which require a parent note before a child can bring over the counter medications to school, Branham said. Branham said she could not specifically say what each district staff actually does in practice.
In Jefferson County, that district includes sunscreen as an over-the -counter medication and it cannot be brought to school or applied without an over-the-counter medication authorization form signed by a parent, said spokeswoman Allison Martin.
Madison school nurses asking for the required parental permission might send home a blanket permission slip once a year or school staff might send home permission slips to use sunscreen on a case-by-case basis, said Madison County district spokeswoman Erin Stewart.
“Unfortunately, we do feel like we have to treat it like its a medication instead of a preventative measure,” Stewart said. “As a parent, I would appreciate being able to just send a bottle of sunscreen with my daughter to school for anything she might need that for, recess or field days.”
A May 2017 National Conference of State Legislatures blog said that California’s Legislature passed a law in 2002 allowing students to use sunscreen during the school day without a physician’s note. Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Utah and Washington have recently passed laws declaring students may use sunscreen in school and at after-school activities, no doctor’s note required, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline reported in July. Those states join New York, Oregon and Texas in addition to California.
Stateline reported that legislation in several other states “has been driven by an advocacy campaign from a coalition of medical groups including the American Academy of Dermatology Association and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association.”