Severe Sunburn Blamed on School's Sunscreen Ban

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TACOMA, Wash. -- Violet Michener, 11, and her sister, Zoe, 9, came home from school with such severe sunburns that their mother, Jesse, rushed them to the hospital for treatment.

The girls had spent the afternoon in the sun on a school field trip. But they were not allowed to apply sunscreen due to a school policy forbidding students from using it while at school.

Michener said the day started out rainy so she didn't put sunscreen on the girls. But even if she had, the children would not have been allowed to reapply it once the sun came out.

"They couldn't even reapply sunscreen without a doctor's note," Jesse Michener said. "They couldn't carry that in their backpacks."

To make matters worse, Zoe has a form of albinism that makes her eyes and skin hyper sensitive to sun exposure.

When Michener questioned the school district about the ban, she was told the policy was in place to protect children who may have allergic reactions to the lotion.

"Because so many additives in lotions and sunscreens cause allergic reaction in children, you have to really monitor that," said Dan Voelpel, a Tacoma School District spokesman.

The incident has both parents and doctors questioning the logic of taking kids on long outings in the sun without benefit of sunscreen, or even a hat. Hats are also banned from school.

"I can't see any justification for any school to tell a child that they are not allowed to apply sunscreen to protect themselves from the harmful UV rays that we know cause skin cancer," dermatologist Dr. Doris Day said. "There's just no reason for it."

Forty-nine states have sunscreen bans in place at public schools. Only California allows its use without a doctor's note.

The Tacoma school district is planning to change its policy, though, after the incident with the Michener girls.

The district has apologized to Jesse Michener, and the state has revised its law to allow individual school districts more leeway to make their own rules when it comes to applying sunscreen at school.

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