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May 15, 2007

My sixty-minute sun-safety campaign

Last weekend, we watched a parade.  I've been putting sunscreen on them for outdoor activities since the weather turned sunny, but I thought we'd just sit in the shade, watch for ten minutes, then go home.  I'll apply sunscreen later. Silly me.  Caught up in the festive spirit, we joined the tail end of the parade and stayed outdoors all morning.  I forgot about the sunscreen -- and as a result my fair-skinned daughter got sunburned (click here for the photo), the first one she's ever had in her six-year life. 

My guilt knew no bounds.  Move on, my husband said, it happened, now let's make sure it doesn't happen again.  The  next day, I slathered her with lotion and sent her to school with a small bottle of sunscreen, asking her to reapply before recess.  To my surprise, her teacher apologetically informed me that children are not allowed to bring sunscreen into school or apply it to themselves during school hours.  So I went to the school office and confirmed this with the school secretary.  Apparently this is California law -- and sunscreen is included since it's considered to be a medication.

As I walked home, my mind was racing.  How can this be?!  Everybody knows that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two to three hours to be effective.  This means that even if I do apply sunscreen on my daugher in the morning, it will wear off just about the time she heads outdoors for recess at 10:10AM.  Does this mean I have to send a note with my child and have her march off to the doctor's office every time she needs to reapply sunscreen? 

I was all fired up.  It's sunscreen, after all, not an epi-pen -- that law needs amending!  More parents need to know about this!  I'll start a petition.  Write letters to senators.  Contact the American Cancer Society.  Inform our local parents club.  Mobilize the SV Moms Blog! 

I sat down at my computer to do some research.  My first Google search told me that medication (both prescription and otc) usage in school is indeed strictly regulated.  Sixty minutes later, I found out that in 2002, California passed a law, Billy's Bill for Sun Safety, (here's the sponsoring organization's website) requiring all public schools to allow the use of sun-protective clothing and sunscreen while at school -- and that sunscreen is not considered an OTC medication.

Oh.  I felt a bit sheepish (I guess I can erase that draft to Barbara Boxer now). Well thank goodness anyway, wiser minds than mine had already identified the problem and done something about it.  Funny that it happened as late as 2002, but hey, better late than never.  I informed my daughter's teacher and principal; they apologized for the misunderstanding and thanked me for the information.  And I've clipped a little bottle of sunscreen onto my daughter's lunchbox.  Even though I didn't actually do anything, I'm strangely proud of myself for caring and being willing to fight.  I guess a little bit of mother's guilt can be a good thing.
So -- Hey, California parents, the law says it's OK to send a bottle of sunscreen to school with your child and ask them to put some on before they head outside.  Do your bit to reduce their risk of skin cancer -- then hope they'll remember! 

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