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U.S. states move to allow children to use sunscreen at school without a doctors note

WASHINGTON—State Rep. Craig Hall of Utah has four red-headed school-age children, lives in the state with the highest rate of melanoma in the United States, and buys sunscreen “in the Costco size.” He is an unabashed proponent of sun protection.But when Hall, a Republican, introduced legislation this year to allow kids to bring sunscreen to school — which starts Aug. 21 in his district — he said his fellow state lawmakers were a little less enthusiastic. “My colleagues’ first reaction to this bill was mostly, ‘Seriously? We need a bill for this?’”Like ibuprofen or hay fever medication, sunscreen is considered an over-the-counter drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and therefore by almost all schools. That means kids can’t bring it to school without a doctor’s note, and even then must see the school nurse in order to use it.The result: Teachers leading a sunny field trip are free to cover themselves in a thick protective layer of sunscreen. But in most states, children can’t follow suit. In Indianapolis, for instance, kids go back to school July 31 — the height of summer — but they must have a doctor’s note to bring sunscreen to school, and visit the school nurse to put it on.That is beginning to change. In the past four months, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Utah and Washington have enacted laws declaring students may use sunscreen in school and at after-school activities, no doctor’s note required. Those states join California, New York, Oregon and Texas, which already have lifted the ban on sunscreen in school. The laws in Arizona, New York and Washington also stipulate that kids may bring and use sunscreen at summer camps.Article Continued BelowSunscreen legislation is also in the works in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. A sunscreen bill that cleared the Senate in Mississippi died in a House committee, and a bill introduced in Georgia has stalled.Legislators say they are motivated by angry parents whose children suffered serious sunburns at school events where sunscreen was banned. “If you just Google ‘kid sunburned at school,’” Hall said, “some of the stories are horrifying.”In Rhode Island, Democratic state Rep. David Bennett said the state’s 2016 law requiring daily school recess makes it more important that kids be allowed to put on sunscreen by themselves. “The kids are impatient. They’ve got 20 minutes. They’re not going to stand in line for 20 minutes” while a teacher applies sunscreen, said Bennett, whose bill passed the lower house and is now in the Senate. “By the time she gets done with the last kid, the 20 minutes is going to be over.”

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