Some Feeling Chapped By Sunscreen Legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Tulsa lawmaker doesn’t want any students getting burned at school.

Republican state Sen. Gary Stanislawski said it’s time for districts to allow children to bring sunscreen to school and to self-apply it without the written authorization of a parent or doctor.

If a child can’t apply it on their own, Stanislawski said nurses, administrators or other designated district employees should apply it for them — with written permission from a parent.

During a committee hearing this week, Stanislawski said schools in Oklahoma refuse to allow children to apply sunscreen, which is considered an over-the-counter medication. While he couldn’t cite any specific examples, he said there are numerous examples in other states.

He said 10 other states are taking up similar measures this year.

“This has definitely become an issue,” he said. “And we have the vagueness in our own state statutes.”

He said his measure would set up the framework to allow local school boards to set their own sunscreen policies.

But his proposal has left some feeling chapped.

“I’ve never run into a school district that has denied sunscreen,” said state Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, who voted against the bill. “I can’t believe a school district would deny a child sunscreen.”

While noting that sunscreen is important and reduces the risk of skin cancer, the School Nurse Association of Oklahoma doesn’t believe the state should mandate how sunscreen should be applied, said Elizabeth Vaughan in an email last month.

Sunscreen already must be applied if ordered by a physician, said Vaughan, who works as a Tulsa Public Schools nurse and serves as the group’s president.

“Sunscreen is already being applied for students who need sunscreen, and most schools will apply this if no nurse is present,” Vaughan said. “There are several ways that a parent can have sunscreen applied to their child, and it has been going on for many years. We do not think that a mandate by the state Senate is necessary.”

State Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, who also voted against the measure, said he was concerned that allowing a teacher or administrator to apply sunscreen on a young student could lead to other touching.

Despite the objections, the measure ultimately passed out of committee. It now heads to the full Senate for approval.

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