If a student brings a bottle of sunscreen to school, can she slather it on before recess or a field trip?
The parental permission required for a child to use sunscreen varies from school district to school district. The rub is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers sunscreen to be an over-the-counter medication.
Seeking to clarify the issue, the commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education will issue guidance on sunscreen use at the beginning of the school year, likely in August.
In the Millard schools, if parents send sunscreen to school, then their kids may use it, said Rebecca Kleeman, spokeswoman for Millard Public Schools.
“We have bulk sunscreen at school and request permission from parents before we apply it to students,” Kleeman said.
Parents of Omaha Public Schools students are asked to apply the sunscreen to their child before school. If parents want it applied during the school day, they must sign a permission slip, provide the sunscreen and tell school officials where the sunscreen should be applied.
It’s a similar process in the Lincoln Public Schools — parents must provide the sunscreen and provide signed instructions for how to use it, according to the district’s website.
Some districts, such as the Bellevue Public Schools and Westside Community Schools, said they don’t have a policy when it comes to sunscreen.
The guidance from the commissioner says children should be allowed to possess and use FDA-approved, over-the-counter sunscreen without a doctor’s note, and they wouldn’t need to store the sunscreen in a specific location, such as the nurse’s office.
The guidance also says parents or guardians could refuse to have their child use sunscreen.
Districts won’t have to follow the guidance. It will be up to the districts, said David Jespersen, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Education.
A state senator raised the issue with the Education Department, Jespersen said.
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue introduced a bill in the Nebraska Legislature in 2018 that would allow children attending schools, recreational programs, summer camps and day care programs to use sunscreen.
Blood ultimately pulled that bill and worked with the Department of Education to clarify the matter without legislation.
Blood said in an interview that she found that different school districts and day care centers have different sunscreen policies or no policies addressing the issue.
The idea that a parent couldn’t send a kid to school with sunscreen seemed like government overreach, Blood said.
Blood’s bill was part of the SUNucate movement, which was developed by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. The idea is to ensure that students had access to sunscreen at school.
According to the organization, 22 states have passed legislation to allow students to possess and use sunscreen at school without a prescription or a doctor’s note.
“Now we won’t have confusion,” Blood said of the guidelines. “It’ll be consistent throughout Nebraska.”
This article has been updated to clarify how the guidance will be sent out by the Nebraska Department of Education. The department previously provided incorrect information.