State Rep. Kevin Hertel testifies about House Bill 5379, which would allow students to bring sunscreen to school and use it during school activities, accompanied by Madison Horton, of St. Clair Shores, Feb. 1.

State Rep. Kevin Hertel testifies about House Bill 5379, which would allow students to bring sunscreen to school and use it during school activities, accompanied by Madison Horton, of St. Clair Shores, Feb. 1.

Photo provided by state Rep. Kevin Hertel


St. Clair Shores girl testifies for sunscreen bill

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 9, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — A local lawmaker is working to protect students from the dangers of the sun with a bill that would allow them to bring sunscreen to school and use it during school activities.

The bill from state Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores, passed the House Committee on Education Reform unanimously Feb. 8. Testifying during the hearing on the bill a week before was 17-year-old Madison Horton, of St. Clair Shores, who has been battling a rare form of melanoma for two years.

Horton, a senior at the International Academy of Macomb, said she was shocked at first to hear that some schools do not allow students to apply sunscreen because they consider it a medication.

“For me, it’s just become ... this is the No. 1 thing to do. All I can do now is prevent it from spreading,” she said. “The fact that we’re not allowing (students) to have that early prevention, it just boggles my mind.”

Horton said she was 12 months old when she was adopted from Russia. She’s had a mole on her back from a young age, but since her parents weren’t provided with her medical history from Russia, they’re not sure if it was there when she was born or not. Two years ago, doctors diagnosed Horton with spindled neurotropic melanocytic proliferation. She has since had moles removed over the course of nine surgeries on her back, under both arms and on her neck. 

 “The sun could have definitely worsened it,” she said. 

Hertel said that school districts across the state have different regulations about sunscreen, but many do not allow students to bring it to school without a note from a doctor in order to protect themselves from liability. The bill would allow students to possess sunscreen with a note from their parents without the schools being held liable.

“It was brought to our attention by a national organization that’s working on this issue across the country to ensure that students have the ability to apply sunscreen when they’re at school,” Hertel said. “Come to find out that there are actually parents in school districts in St. Clair Shores that have been told to apply sunscreen the morning of (because students cannot reapply it throughout the day). There are school districts that see this as a liability.”

He said that sunscreen should be allowed to be applied throughout the day. 

“We exempted it so school districts wouldn’t be held liable if the students brought the sunscreen and had a note from their parents,” he said. 

Hertel was struck by Horton’s story when she testified in front of the state House with the American Cancer Society, he said. 

“We still have to be extremely careful because just a few bad sunburns at a young age can mean a diagnosis of skin cancer later in life,” he said. 

The bill now goes before the full House.

“I hope the bill ... gets passed on ... so it can get passed as quickly as it can with summer coming on,” Horton said.