Is Your School Sun Safe?
Summer and sunny weather is here! However, summer is not the only time a child needs to be protected from the sun, and every child needs sun protection. Damage from exposure to UV rays builds up over time, so sun protection should start at an early age. It is essential for teachers and school staff to model sun safety and create an environment where there are sun-safe policies integrated with health education and practices. Teachers and administrators should recognize the importance of sun safety and create an environment that communicates these practices and sun safety education.
Providing adequate shade for children and staff is an important issue that schools must address. The hottest part of the day is between 10 am – 4 pm and school schedules make it nearly impossible to avoid exposure to the sun during these hours. Enhance the school’s physical environment by planting trees and building shaded structures such as canopies at existing buildings. Plan for shade when developing or renovating school buildings, playgrounds, or athletic fields. The American Academy of Dermatology has a grant program that assists schools by awarding grants of up to $8,000 to public schools and non-profits for installing permanent shade.
Communicate Sun Safety Policies with Families
Schools should adopt policies that help parents and teachers reduce student exposure to UV rays. Due to the hottest part of the day being during school hours, try to schedule recess and outdoor activities with that information in mind. Students should bring hats and sunglasses, and apply sunscreen before school. According to a study by Everette Jones, 577 schools across the country were polled about their sun safety policies. Overall, it was found that sun safety policies were not standard among the surveyed schools. The most common practice was having the teacher allow time for students to apply sunscreen at school. The least common practice was providing the sunscreen for student use.
Providing education to teach students the healthy habits they need to prevent excessive sun exposure should be age appropriate and should be taught throughout the school year, not just during the warmer times of the year. Incorporating sun safety curriculum into a school health class that is consistent with the CDC’s Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer could aid in this endeavor. Other policy ideas are encouraging school faculty and staff to model sun safety behavior by wearing hats and sunglasses, and applying sunscreen in front of the students before going outside.