Ryan: State Education Department Needs to Change School Sunscreen Regulation

Current state regulation classifies sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug – students cannot use sunscreen in school without a doctor’s note
Ryan: Education Department needs to change policy to protect students
June 28, 2012

Buffalo – On Thursday, June 28, 2012, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, standing outside Roswell Park Cancer Institute, urged the State Education Department to change its regulation that prevents students in New York State schools from using sunscreen in school without a note from a doctor. A recent story regarding two children in Washington State who were not allowed to use sunscreen on a school field trip, and ended up with severe sunburns has spurred discussion of state laws that prevent kids from using sunscreen in schools due to the fact that sunscreen is classified as an over-the-counter drug. Currently, only the State of California allows kids to use sunscreen without a doctor’s note or prescription, all other 49 states have regulations in place that treat sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug. In a letter to State Education Department Commissioner John B. King, Ryan urged the Department to alter their regulation and put in place a more common sense approach where a simple note from a parent would be the only requirement needed for a student to use sunscreen in school.

“There is no reason that sunscreen, something we use to prevent exposure to the sun, should be treated like any other over-the-counter drug,” said Ryan. “Kids should not have to take a break from protecting themselves from the sun while they are at school. Whether playing at recess on the playground, participating in sports outside, or on a school fieldtrip, children going to school should be able to use sunscreen with just a simple note from their parents, and should not be required to take the added step of getting a doctor’s permission. If a parent says their child can use sunscreen, that should be adequate permission for a school. The State Education Department should put a more common sense regulation in place to provide easier access to sunscreen for students.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that there were over 3700 new cases of melanoma or skin cancer in New York State last year. Every step should be taken to lower cases of skin cancer here in New York and throughout this country. Using sunscreen is a simple and preventative step to help meet that goal.

“Here at Roswell, they see new cases of skin cancer every single day, and understand the important impact that sunscreen can have on preventing future health problems,” Ryan added. “The State Education Department should put a new regulation into place that increases student’s access to sunscreen, helping them prevent exposure to the sun, and lowering their risk for skin cancer later in life. We should be encouraging our kids to use sunscreen, not putting hurdles into place, like the added step of getting a doctor’s note.”

A copy of Ryan’s letter appears below. For more information please contact Assemblyman Ryan’s Buffalo Office at 716.885.9630.

June 28, 2012

Dr. John B. King, Jr.
Commissioner of Education
New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12234

Dear Dr. King,

I write today concerning the State Education Department’s regulation regarding sunscreen in schools. The current regulation does not allow students to use sunscreen in schools without a note or prescription from a doctor. Unfortunately this regulation can lead to many different problems, and limit access to students using sunscreen while at school. In the best interest of those who attend schools in New York State, I urge the State Education Department to change this regulation, and implement a more common sense approach where only a note from a parent would be necessary for a student to use sunscreen in school.

We all know how important it is to use sunscreen, especially in children. Using sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun helps to prevent future health concerns, like skin cancer, later in life. By treating sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug, and forcing students to first go to their doctor and get a note, the State Education Department is placing an undue burden on both the student and the doctor. Doctors already have enough to worry about, and taking time out of their day to write dozens of notes for children to use sunscreen is not a productive use of anyone’s time. A more common sense approach would be to simply allow a parent to sign a permission slip to let their child use sunscreen in school. Treating sunscreen, a preventative measure, just like any other over-the-counter drug is not in the best interest of students. The State Education Department has previously made changes to its policy by allowing students to have access to hand sanitizer in schools, and sunscreen should be treated in the same manner.

Again, I urge the State Education Department to rethink this sunscreen regulation, and put in place new standards that ensure children can have easier access to sunscreen in school, while at the same time removing an undue burden on doctors and giving parents the sole responsibility of deciding what is right for their children. I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.


Sean M. Ryan
Member of Assembly