Sun Safety at School: What Parents Can Do

Eileen Bailey Health Guide April 04, 2012
  • Teachers and students alike have been waiting for spring to arrive. The kids can once again head outside during recess to get some much needed exercise and sun. But as we now know, too much sun is harmful and is a leading cause of skin cancer. Fortunately, this is preventable and just takes some simple precautions before spending time outdoors.

    A few schools around the country, such as some in Colorado, are adopting sun safe programs. According to an article in EducationNewsColorado some of the steps schools are taking are:

    • Teaching students about skin cancer and ultraviolet light exposure
    • Providing wide brim hats for the children and teachers to wear when outdoors
    • Supplying sunscreen and lip balm for students
    • Building shade structures on playgrounds [1]

    Unfortunately, sun safety is not standard in schools and even those that have adopted measures, such as the previous ones, have come across some problems instituting the policies. For example, teachers of young children are sometimes discouraged from helping the children to apply sunscreen because some parents find it inappropriate touching and certain sunscreens can irritate children with sensitive skin or allergies. And in some school districts, sunscreen is listed as a over-the-counter medication and students cannot bring it to school without a doctor's note.

    Whether or not your child's school has begun incorporating sun-safety into recess and recreational time, as parents there are ways you can help keep your child protected, even when you aren't around. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers the following suggestions for parents:

    • Attend Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) meetings and advocate for sun-safety policies to be adopted in the school. For example, if the current dress code does not allow hats to be worn, you may need to suggest that the dress code be adjusted to allow hats when children are outdoors.
    • Work with the PTA to create a sun safety presentation to the students, parents, teachers and administrators on the importance of sun-safety and what preventive measures can be taken.
    • Suggest having fund-raisers to purchase sun safety items for the school.
    • Work with area businesses to request donated trees or playground structures that provide shaded areas for children or to help supply sun safety gear (hats, sunglasses, etc) to the school for use by the students.
    • Provide your child with the appropriate accessories to protect them from the sun: wide brimmed hats, long-sleeve light colored clothing and sunglasses.
    • Apply sunscreen whenever your child is going outdoors or participating in outdoor activities. Talk with your child's school about their policy for allowing a child to carry sunscreen. If this isn't allowed, find out the reasons and ask for suggestions.
    • Talk with your child about the importance of using sunscreen and staying protected when outdoors. Be a good role model and apply sunscreen when you are outdoors.


    References:

    [1] "Colorado Shines in Sun Safety at School," 2011, Jul 26, Rebecca Jones, EducationNewsColorado: http://www.ednewscolorado.org/2011/07/26/21676-colorado-shines-in-sun-safety-at-school


  • "Sun Safety at School," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, American Cancer Society: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/pdf/sunsafety_v0908.pdf


    "What You Can Do," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/pdf/sunsafety_v0908.pdf