Yes, sun damage is a clear and present danger; but according to a report in USA Today, many schools, camps and daycare centers have policies that ban kids from carrying sunscreen without a doctor’s note and warn staffers not to dispense it.
Those entrusted with the welfare of our children have no shortage of Good Intentions, but sometimes common sense gets lost in the mixture. Some facilities are more progressive than others, but too often communications break down and parents are left in the dark about their kids' being in the sun. The different states and localities have a dizzying hodgepodge of rules, regulations, guidelines and assumptions based on the reading of the entrails of small furry creatures.
Part of the reason this danger has crept up on us is indifference (or downright contempt) by the toothless macho citizens who view sunscreen as the refuge of sissies and assure us, “A little sun never hurt nobody.” Perhaps you worry that someday these geniuses will run up big dermatological bills for Medicare, but more likely they'll just need a good REUPHOLSTERING for their faces.
Sunscreens are treated as over-the-counter medications (like Tylenol or ibuprofen), so schools are leery of them. The fragrances in sunscreen may cause minor allergic reactions in some students; but, speaking as an allergy sufferer, the benefits outweigh the costs. (The Skin Cancer Foundation says that one blistering sunburn in childhood MORE THAN DOUBLES a person's chances for getting melanoma later in life.)
What is sunscreen supposed to be, anyway — a GATEWAY DRUG? Yeah, first you let the kids have a tube of sunblock for ultraviolet protection, then they move up to the HARD STUFF like fencing masks, hockey masks, Tibetan monk robes, cryogenic preservation capsules ...
In these litigious times, some school districts shy away from proper skincare for fear adults will get into trouble for inappropriately touching kids if they help apply sunscreen. This comes under the heading of Cover Your Own Rear But Let Little Jenny’s Earlobes Fry.
If you really have staffers whose idea of sexual fulfillment is wearing gloves and spraying Coppertone on a snotty-nosed kid’s elbow in full view of the rest of the class, maybe you should pay them enough so they can afford some REAL hobbies.
It's not just lotions. Hats, caps, visors and other protective clothing are also routinely banned by administrators. Such gear can be tell-tale signs of gang affiliation, we are told. And I guess the bans really do cut down on crime, as lone bullies say, “G’wan and keep your lunch money, kid. Your blisters and peeling skin make me wanna hurl, anyway.”
What should you do in the face of these roadblocks? Check sunsafetyforkids.org for online tips on protecting your kids. Find out exactly what rules your school has in place. Analyze the logic of those rules and organize to help the school balance competing interests.
And, most importantly, shield your eyes. I'm about to film my new exercise video: “Abs of Pillsbury Doughboy.”
Danny Tyree can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org