BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There's outrage nationwide over a school's policy in Washington State that caused two young girls to get severely sunburned, and that could have an impact here locally.
Sisters Violet and Zoe Michener of Tacoma, Washington arrived home from school last week with severe burns, after the school denied them access to sunscreen. They were out in the blistering sun for several hours during the annual field day event.
"It was horrifying to see her bright, red face," Jesse Michener said of one of her daughters during an interview that aired on NBC's Today Show.
The school district said it was prohibited from allowing the pre-teens to use sunscreen, because it is technically considered an over-the-counter drug, which require a doctor's prescription or note in addition to parental permission.
Michener is now challenging the state law banning the application of sunscreen. It turns out, every state except California also bans sunscreen use without a doctor's permission.
New York State's guidelines to school districts say, "A written order from a duly licensed prescriber and written parental permission to administer the medication are required."
Dr. Eugene Bain, a dermatologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said that regulation goes too far.
"It's disconcerting when we hear about these impediments to children using sunscreen, because these are safe products," Dr. Bain said. "It's somewhat silly that children must have a prescription for over-the-counter products."
School leaders in Washington State and other parts of the country have said the regulations are needed, because kids could have an allergic reaction or other medical condition as a result of the sunscreen use.
When weighing the risks, Dr. Bain disagreed.
"The chances of a child having a reaction to sunscreen are much lower than the chance of having an adverse reaction to overexposure," Dr. Bain said, adding that skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer and affects millions of people every year.
Erie County Legislators Edward Rath and Lynne Dixon proposed a resolution that asks New York State's Department of Education to change its regulations to exempt sunscreen from requiring a doctor's note.
"It's high time that the New York State Department of Education modify these regulations and treat sunscreen as something that is preventative and not quite as serious of a drug as a prescription drug is right now," Legislator Rath said.
Rath's proposal, should the Education Department or State Legislature enact it, would make school policy similar to that of local YMCA summer camps, which send home a form to parents, allowing them to sign off on topical applications -- like sunscreen, lip balm and bug spray -- without involving a doctor.