Summer is finally here (knock on wood). After months of gray skies and sprinkles of rain (even a decent amount of snow), we have reached the summer solstice. And with back-to-back days of sun and 70-degree temperatures, it seems that it might be time for people to finally start hanging up their raingear and heading to Alki for breathtaking sunsets and summertime bonfires (just don't get too close).
But not everyone is thrilled about the summer sun -- especially Jesse Michener and her daughters in Tacoma.
According to KOMO and KVAL news reports, Violet and Zoe, two of Michener's three daughters, came home from Point Defiance Elementary School's field day on Tuesday severely sunburned. So severe were the burns that late Tuesday evening Michener took the girls to Tacoma General Hospital. And the following day the two stayed home from school with "peeling faces, headaches, and chills."
One of the reasons for the severity of the girls' sunburns is that neither had sunscreen on during the field day, which in typical Pacific Northwest fashion started with overcast skies and rain before the sun came out in the early afternoon. Unfortunately for the girls, putting sunscreen on in the afternoon was impossible.
Medications administered by routes other than oral (ointments, drops, nasal inhalers, suppositories or non-emergency injections) may not be administered by school staff other than registered or licensed practical nurses.
What this essentially means is students like Violet and Zoe can't put sunscreen on during the school day (even if they're suffering sunburns), unless they've got a note from their doctor or a medical professional.
And this seemingly wonky policy was supported by the Tacoma Public School District yesterday.
As the KVAL story noted:
District spokesman Dan Voelpel says the doctor's-note policy is actually based on a statewide law, and is aimed at preventing kids from sharing sunscreen with someone who might have an allergy. He says there are many students in the district with allergies to common additives in sunscreens and lotions.
But Michener doesn't want to hear it. As the KOMO post goes on to discuss, the mother and local photographer spent yesterday writing letters to district and school-board members calling for a policy better suited for parents. On top of letter-writing, Michener rallied other parents with sunburned children from the field day who were also interested in filing complaints about what occurred.
Interestingly enough, two weeks ago the New York State Education Department implemented a similar state law prohibiting children from using sunscreen at school without a doctor's note. This decision has led some doctors to question regulations restricting sunscreen application, wondering whether such efforts put the public at risk.
"I think it's [the law is] very disappointing because this provides yet another obstacle to this means of cancer prevention," said Dr. Mary Gail Mercurio, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "The bulk of sun exposure to the skin in most people occurs in childhood."
While it's unknown whether or not Michener's letters will lead to a change in the Tacoma School District's policy, at the very least the situation should, hopefully, spark some debate about how Washington schools can protect students from the sun while adhering to current legislation -- and if that's even possible.