DC considers relaxing sunscreen ban in schools

WASHINGTON — Most people who plan to spend some time outside during the day do not think twice about putting on a layer of sunscreen, however, younger students often do not have that luxury because they have to deal with red tape when they are at school.

Many school systems categorize sunscreen as an over-the-counter medication that requires special paperwork for students to use it. But several states and other jurisdictions have been pushing to loosen restrictions to make it easier for kids to protect themselves from skin cancer.

The District joined that list this week as D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced a bill to make sunscreen more widely available to students.

“This aims to protect the health and safety of District students by ensuring that they’re not prevented from accessing sunscreen while at school,” said Cheh.

Currently in D.C. schools, students are not allowed to apply sunscreen unless they have a doctor’s note giving them permission to do so.

“Because of that policy, students are needlessly put at risk of exposure to sunburn and all of the ills that that can cause,” Cheh said.

D.C. officially classifies sunscreen as a medication.

“The District’s definition of medication is quite broad,” Cheh said. “This addresses the problem by amending the definition of medication to exclude sunscreen.”

Under the bill, students could apply sunscreen at school without a doctor’s note, and trained school employees would be allowed to help if needed.

Students could store small amounts of sunscreen in spaces designated for them, such as a locker.

The bill will be considered by the Council’s education committee.

Virginia, which just started a new legislative session Wednesday, is considering a similar measure.

Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, introduced a bill that “permits any public elementary or secondary school student to possess and use topical sunscreen on a school bus, on school property, or at a school-sponsored event without a note or prescription from a licensed health care professional.”

Generally, the policy in Virginia is for each individual school district to form its own rules regarding sunscreen.

The same has been true in Maryland.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.


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