Support S. 309: An Act relative to the availability of sunscreen for students

December 28, 2021
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SUBJECT:  Statewide policies should allow and encourage students to apply, carry and store sunscreen for personal use, especially as students are outside more to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

December 14, 2021

The Honorable Jason Lewis (Jason.lewis@masenate.gov), Co-Chair, Joint Committee on Education

The Honorable Alice Hanlon Peisch (Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov), Co-Chair Joint Committee on Education

RE: Support S. 309: An Act relative to the availability of sunscreen for students

Dear Chairpersons Lewis and Peisch and Members of the Joint Committee on Education:

On behalf of the SUNucate Coalition, which represents more than sixty medical specialty societies, patient advocacy and other groups, we write in strong support of S. 309 and applaud the efforts to remove barriers preventing children in Massachusetts from using over-the-counter sunscreen at school. Statewide policies should allow and encourage students to apply, carry and store sunscreen for personal use, especially as students are outside more to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Broad “medication bans” that are in place in schools across the country require students to have a note or prescription from a physician in order to have these medications. Sunscreens are regulated as over-the-counter drugs under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, making them subject to these bans. Although these policies are meant to protect children, they also hinder them from accessing sunscreen during outdoor school activities and puts them at risk of damaging sun exposure. According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of school districts across the country neither require nor recommend policy which allows students to apply sunscreen while at school.[i] The CDC believes that these types of school policies create barriers to the use of important sun protection.[ii]

Furthermore, students have been spending outside more—both learning and in recreational activities—to slow the spread of COVID-19. In their April 2021 “Guidance on In-Person Learning and Student Learning Time Requirements” the Massachusetts’ Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stated that schools should maximize the use of outdoor spaces to facilitate in-person learning with appropriate physical distancing.[iii] Allowing students to access sunscreen would additionally decrease the strain on school nurses and teachers.

It has been found the use of sunscreen at a young age is a critical and necessary component of skin cancer prevention. The CDC reports that only 10 percent of students reported regular or nearly regular use of sunscreen during prolonged periods of regular sun exposure.[iv] Furthermore, the American Medical Association has adopted policy to support the exemption of sunscreen from any over-the-counter medication bans in school settings and encourages schools to allow students to possess sunscreen without restriction.

It is in the public interest that schools set policies that allow students to possess and apply sunscreen during school. For the reasons stated above, we ask that S. 309 be passed by the Joint Committee on Education. Should you have any questions, please contact Emily Besser, ASDSA Manager of Advocacy and Practice Affairs, at 847-956-9121 or at ebesser@asds.net.

Sincerely,

cc: Members of the Joint Committee on Education

PDF of Document

[i] School Health Policies and Practices Study (SHPPS) 2016 … (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2021, from  https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/shpps/pdf/shpps-results_2016.pdf.
[ii] Skin Cancer Prevention Progress Report 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept. of Health and Human Service
[iii] “Guidance on In-Person Learning and Student Learning Time Requirements.” April 27, 2021. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Accessed December 9, 2021.
[iv] Kann, L; Kinchen, S, Shanklin, S; et.al; Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2013. MMWR 2014;63(SS04):41.