What's the Deal with Preschool Teachers Not Being Allowed to Apply Sunscreen?

Updated on May 28, 2010
J.B. asks from New York, NY
23 answers

My almost 4 year old's preschool teachers just sent home a note telling us to make sure to slather our kids with sunscreen in the morning when we drop them off because teachers are not legally allowed to put sunscreen on students. When I asked, I was told that the same policy applies for camp this Summer.
Does anybody know if this is a 'touching' issue or an 'administration of medication' issue and if there is any way around it (like a permission form to fill out)? My son has pretty pale skin and I'm getting nervous about him getting sunburned on the school roof!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everybody! I actually also asked Jennifer Taggart aka @thesmartmama about it and was send to look at the law citation: http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/childcare/regs/417_FDC_r...
It turns out that they are allowed to apply it in certain circumstances, but that they have to have a whole bunch of programs and authorizations in place.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Ask the teacher. It may be BOTH issues. It also might be a matter of the school not having sunscreen on the premises.

I wouldn't think of it as medicine application/administering, but there can be a lot of chemicals in sunscreens/sunblocks and some kids can be very sensitive to the ingredients. So avoiding applying unknown substances to the children might be safest.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

This is odd to me. In preschool & its camp they told us to apply sunscreen all over at home prior to school, and then to send whatever sunscreen we use with the child so it could be reapplied when needed. I live in NJ. I would ask them.

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answers from Orlando on

It's a touching issue. It's not an administering meds issue because even if you supply your own sunscreen they still aren't allowed to apply it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Mansfield on

I would ask but this year in OH they made it a law that preschool teachers are not allowed to give kids hand santitizer anymore. Our preschool always had the teachers sanitize hands as kids came in the door, but around the new year they sent home a letter saying law no longer allows them to do it. So parents had to come in and apply sanitizer (since it was school policy that you could not go into the preschool area without it) to their children. The same was true at church in the preschool rooms. The no sunscreen thing may have to do with the chemicals, etc.
Why is your son on the school roof?
Hope this helps :)



answers from Minneapolis on

I don't know, but my girls are so sensitive, there is only one brand of sunscreen that doesn't make them rash like crazy, even ones for supposed sensitive skin, have caused us serious breakouts, so it is a medical issue. I need to be the only one sunscreening my kids.



answers from Houston on

My daughter was in preschool just last year (08-09) and her preschool would apply the sunscreen that we provided. We're in TX so it could be a state by state thing.

If it's a legal thing there may be no option but if it's about the touching maybe if you sent the spray that you don't have to rub in the teacher would be allowed to do it?

Good luck,



answers from New York on

I would speak to the director and express your concerns. There may be a permission form that could be completed or a way to have them help your own child do most of the applying to arm, legs, etc. One of those spray sunscreens sounds like it would eliminate the "touching" issue as well, so I would think if you provided the spray sunscreen and coupled it with a medication permission form ... I'd be surprised if they made this into an issue. Good luck!



answers from Portland on

It could be a number of things. The touching? Check. No one wants to lose their job or license because of a child incorrectly explaining something that might have happened while applying sunblock. Some states might consider sunblock a medicine; at my preschool families are asked to sign a medical consent before I will even open up a tube of sunblock. I only will apply it to faces and arms, and expect my families to be primarily responsible in making sure their children are dressed appropriately and prepped for the weather every day.

For a preschool teacher in a larger group, it is a task of enormous proportions to slather up ALL the kids and make sure not to miss anyone. My program is small (4 kids) but it still takes a long time to do this. Kids aren't always great at getting themselves covered and not getting the stuff in their eyes. While I do ask parents to sunblock kids before school on sunny days, we live in Portland and the weather changes, so I like to have the option to be flexible. (I only will apply it to faces and arms/exposed parts.) I don't want any children to get burned on my watch.

As a parent, I am also very careful about what kind of sunblock my son uses. (We use an expensive, nonchemical one.)

For what it's worth, consider SPF clothes. They are wonderful. Carters and OP sell them for very reasonable prices. Sun hats, too, are a must. If it's too hot, kids should be provided some sort of shade or relief from the heat, and good providers will know when it's time to go in because there's no reason for kids to get bad sunburns in care. Mild sunburns happen, even with the best of intentions, but more serious burns shouldn't be happening with adequately trained staff. Period.

For what it's worth, sunblock does usually need to be reapplied every 2-3 hours or so, so I'd ask the director/teachers at your son's school and camp what their plans are for very sunny days. If it's a full-day program, there needs to be some back-up space for the kids to go to out of the sun. And don't be afraid to ask--you are the client and paying for the service. If they can't give you a satisfactory answer or help form a plan, it might be worth it to rethink. I'd never be upset at a parent for asking thoughtful questions about their child's care, and neither will any high-quality program. Best of luck!


answers from New York on

Hi J.,
I haven't read your other answers yet, but have you thought about teaching your son how to apply the sunscreen on himself? He could carry it with him and put it on his own arms, legs and face. And he could carry some wipes in his pocket to clean his hands off after applying the sunscreen.
Good luck!
from the Pocono Mts. of PA


answers from Austin on

Hmmm, my daughter's preschool asks us to provide a bottle of her own sunscreen. We're supposed to put it on in the morning but they will reapply in the afternoon. (It's kinda weird that they said they won't put it on, since most sunblocks typically says it needs to be reapplied after a certain time or after being exposed to water.)



answers from Seattle on

My kids have fair skin too.. so we buy Gap 50spf sun shirts.. hats ect.. then 50 spf sunscreen before school.



answers from New York on

J. in NY it's the law. It's a touching inappropriate issue. Been around for some time, sorry to say. The problem as we all know is that in order for sunscreen to really work a has to be reapplied frequently through the day. What you can do is have a hat for your son and insist in writting that he wears that hat whenever he is outside.



answers from Philadelphia on

I was once told it's because the schools don't want to be sued by parents whose kids may or may not have been touched inappropriately (inadvertently or not) by the teacher while applying sunscreen. It's not a new policy, my kids pre-school had the same policy in effect 10 years ago. They're both protecting themselves from lawsuits and protecting the kids from that rare teacher who would actually do something wrong. It makes me sad all around.



answers from New York on

It is probably the touching issue not medication. Just put it on him in the
morning and he will be fine. There is a new 100SPF out there.



answers from New York on

It sounds like a liability issue, for the same reason that staff is not allowed to give medication, even Tylenol. There could be an allergic reaction and they do not want to be responsible. There are parents out there who are of the complete opposite opinion than you and would sue the school if something happened. I agree that you should see if there's a medical form you can fill out to get permission for them to apply the sunscreen. Can your son learn to put it on himself? We did that at camp. I am also curious about why he's playing on the roof.


answers from Fresno on

That's the craziest thing I ever heard. They would apply sunscreen at my daughters' school, but only if you brought it (that way you could buy a special kind if your child had extra-sensitive skin or whatever). What are you supposed to do, apply SPF 50 at the beginning of the day, and when that wears off, allow your child to blister in the sun? Ugh. I don't think I have anything nice to say about that. I would suggest that you have your pediatrician write out instructions (such as, child needs sunscreen applied every 2 hours to prevent sunburn), and that way it would be like a medication and they would have to apply it.


answers from Rochester on

I perfer to apply lotion to my own child, for the main reason of spreading skin rashes like ringworms, mulcosums, scabies ect, plus your child maybe allergic to other lotions that may already be on the caregivers hands. Can you imagine applying sunscreen to many children not to mention keeping them labled and not to mix up whos is whos. I would not want a caregiver applying to my childs face either, pink eye, getting the lotion in the eyes ect, and you can;t tell me they wash inbetween applications.



answers from Chicago on

I think it's probably a combination of both. Is there a nurse on staff? Ask the nurse or the teacher if you can send in a note with permission to apply.



answers from New York on

hmmm, i guess its where you live. at our preschool, they give a slip in all the paperwork where we sign that we understand they will apply sunscreen. then there is a space where we have to write if we want to send a specific type of sunscreen with our child, then would put our childs name on it.

if your son is on a roof, is there adequate shade areas? how long is there outside time(its usually longer in the summer)? i would ask them these questions immediately and find out the reason.

i would assume if its a law, its the medication issue in your state, with the school feeling comfortable that it allows them an "out" to avoid any touching issues. however, all the sunscreens are sprays and you dont even have to touch. and if it is considered medication, they would still give your child a prescription if he needed it with proper paperwork, so there should be allowance in whatever law they are referring. any doctor would write a letter saying its in their recommendation that a child have sunscreen on.

i would wonder too if the daycare isnt happy that they dont have an added expense. sunscreen would be an added cost they may not want to absorb. on a side note, if you google this issue, it sounds more like its just a daycares rule versus an actual state law. no matter how you look at it, they are avoiding many responsibilities by saying they wont do it.



answers from Seattle on

At my sons preschool/daycare we had to fill out medication form, before they could apply the sunscreen to my boys. Parents to supply the sunscreen



answers from Portland on

At our daycare we have to fill out a medication form for sunscreen. Maybe that's the issue. In my opinion, sunscreen is not optional so this is a strange thing to say. Even when I worked during the summer at camps (pre-baby) we had sunscreen and made the kids apply it (older kid obviously) and the other teachers applied it to their younger kids. Maybe there was something in the paperwork about it. I would ask again if they can do it if you fill out the medication form.



answers from New York on

My kids go to Camp Hillard and I have to send a note in at the beginning of summer that the counselors can reapply sunscreen after swimming. I then put the sunscreen in my kids' bags and they do reapply. My kids (who are quite pale) did not get sunburn.



answers from New York on

in CT it is a touching thing. at camp we supply a can of the spray sunscreen with family name on it. the nurse or head counselor has a special outdoor covered area that the kids go to after swim (yes, we lube them up before drop off in the am). she sprays them down and the kids rub it in themselves. also they keep our stick lotion for the face which most kids can apply themselves and the nurse or counselor will apply the stick since it is not "hands on."

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