You send your kids to school. It’s raining. Later in the day, though, the sun comes out -- blazing -- so the school proceeds with field day. Everyone goes outside. Your kids are fair-skinned, one with a form of albinism, and after a little while, their skin is screaming red. Staffers even comment on it. As a school administrator, do you:
A. Immediately take them out of the sun.
B. Issue them hats.
C. Apply sunscreen.
D. None of the above, because “rules” prevent you from helping them.
At a school in Tacoma, Washington, the administration circled D. By the time they got home, writes their mom, blogger Jesse Michener, the kids' skins were so fried she took them to the hospital. “Their burns were met with concern from doctors and staff alike.” Why hadn’t anyone at the school helped them?
Because, according to the principal, they were not carrying a doctor’s prescription for non-prescription sunscreen.
Her response centered around the district’s inability to administer what they considered a prescription/medication (sunscreen) in accordance with a state law designed to guard against allergic reactions to the additives in various products. And while I can sort of wrap my brain around this in theory, the practice of a blanket policy which clearly allows for students to be put in harm’s way is deeply flawed.
Not only does a parent have to take an unrealistic (an un-intuitive) step by visiting a doctor for a “prescription” for an over-the-counter product, children are not allowed to carry it on their person and apply as needed.
Talk about insane! This is what happens when two things collide: A fear of lawsuits and a chicken-livered administrator.
To get insurance these days, schools must swear never to let the students do anything that could be -- even in the rarest of instances -- dangerous. Even things like applying their own sunscreen. Even carrying their own sunscreen (this, too, was outlawed at the school, as were hats).
The fears prompting these rules are becoming so ornate and far-fetched (“What if a child uses sunscreen inappropriately?”) that in following them, we not only lose all common sense, we lose our ability to think or even feel. We become stunted.
The principal didn’t frame it this way, but it was her decision to let those girls burn, by following orders -- the insurance company’s orders, or the school district’s.
In this, she is just like the school nurse who recently let a child slip into unconsciousness from an asthma attack, because even though his inhaler had his name on it, she didn’t have his inhaler form on file! She followed orders so well he could have died.
Which, in a way, is just like the guards who allegedly wouldn’t let a young boy use the community center bathroom because it was after hours and he COULD trip and sue. In all those cases, the folks in charge blindly obeyed rules written with an eye to avoiding lawsuits, rather than reacting like normal human beings.