June 25 2012
Vicki E. Alger
For those of us (like me) who live in the Southwest, applying sunscreen is a normal part of the daily ritual. But even in places like Tacoma, Washington, the sun still shines—a fact that Tacoma Public School district officials seemed to have forgotten before taking students on a day-long field trip.
Tacoma Public School district spokesman Dan Voelpel told Yahoo! Shine that the school district's sunscreen policy -- which forbids teachers from applying sunscreen to students, and only allows students to apply it themselves if they have a doctor's note authorizing it -- is based on a statewide law. Jesse Michener, whose two daughters came home severely sunburned, explained:
… that she takes full responsibility for not making them put on sunscreen before bringing them to school that day [but] none of her kids have ever come home from school with sunburns before…[and] teachers had other options besides breaking the law: They could have sent the girls indoors when they noticed the burns getting bad, or called Michener and asked her to come to school and put sunscreen on them herself… "Something as simple as a sun hat might seem to bypass the prescription issue to some extent…Alas, hats are not allowed at school, even on field day."
It defies imagination that the school in question did not send home a flurry of parent permission forms and information notices well before the field trip. If getting medical clearances for sunscreen (what about bottled water?) and such were requirements, then that should have been clearly spelled out for parents.
These sorts of situations arise when we relinquish authority over education to politicians—however well intentioned. The Nanny State does not know best, and often times strangles the common sense right out of otherwise sensible people who are just trying to follow the law.
Another more pernicious unintended consequence is that when education and related activities are considered someone else’s responsibility—parents deferring to school teachers and officials, school staff deferring to doctors and lawyers, and all deferring to elected officials—ultimately no one seems to be responsible. That’s when children get burned.