The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Council may end sunscreen ban in D.C. schools

Sunscreen-clad scofflaws in D.C. schools could soon be law-abiding students if some District lawmakers have their way.

A little-known provision in D.C. law prohibits students from using medicine on campus or at school-sanctioned activities without a note from a doctor. Turns out, the federal Food and Drug Administration regards sunscreen as an over-the-counter medicine, rendering the skin-protecting lotion an illicit substance on campus grounds.

But council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) wants to consign the sunscreen ban to a dark corner, and she introduced legislation this week that would do just that.

The School Sunscreen Safety Act would exempt sunscreen from the stringent ways schools typically handle medications, allowing a student to use it in school without a "medication action plan" — more commonly known as a doctor's note.

"It shouldn't be that haphazard," Cheh said. "If parents want their kids to have sunscreen, they should be allowed to."

D.C. Public Schools and the D.C. Public Charter School Board could not immediately say whether the sunscreen prohibition is enforced in schools.

Many school systems say kids need a doctor’s note to use sunscreen

Cheh said she only recently learned that sunscreen was banned from schools unless students receive special permission. She didn't know about it when she sent her children to D.C. Public Schools in the 1990s.

"This flies under the radar," she said.

The District's public schools aren't the only ones that put sunscreen on the forbidden list. Lots of schools across the nation do, although those bans are receiving scrutiny. Last year, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Utah and Washington state passed laws similar to what Cheh has proposed.

Virginia will consider the matter during the legislative session that convened Wednesday.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children and adults should apply sunscreen on exposed skin anytime they are outdoors to protect themselves from sunburn and some skin cancers. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied ­every two hours.

Margaret Cellucci, spokeswoman for the National Association of School Nurses, said in an email that the group does not have a stance on the sunscreen rule.

Cheh's legislation has 10 co-sponsors on the 13-member D.C. Council.