Universal Mentors Association

Help! Should Teachers Really Be Putting Sunscreen On Their Students?


Dear WeAreTeachers,
Now that it’s getting much sunnier outside, a student’s parent emailed requesting that I apply sunscreen to her second grader’s arms, face, and neck before he goes outside to recess. When I gently explained that at this age, children are both welcome to bring and expected to apply their own sunscreen, she sent this email: “I think there might be some confusion. I’m asking you to apply sunscreen so his skin doesn’t burn, not turn your classroom upside down … this takes 30 seconds, tops. Ms. (last year’s teacher) did this last year with no issues. Let me know if I need to get an administrator involved in order for you to do a very simple request.” I mean … what?! —Absolutely Not

Dear A.N.,

Well. This is something you don’t hear every day.

First, this is your principal’s issue, not yours. They need to take the reins on this one since the parent is pressuring you to put yourself in a vulnerable and unprofessional position. Unless the student has a 504 for a sun allergy or sensitivity, you shouldn’t be touching him to apply sunscreen at all. (Plus, I think 504 accommodations would be more along the lines of giving the student time/privacy to apply his own sunscreen, but I could be wrong about that.)

If your principal hems and haws about having to intervene, remind them that federal law prohibits touching students unless it’s medically necessary or the student is in danger. Legal reminders tend to be effective.

But also, 30 seconds to apply sunscreen? Has she ever actually done this before?

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I have a surgery scheduled for over the summer that I’d like to keep private from my coworkers and administrators. Yesterday, my coworker sent an email with four calendar invites over the summer to welcome a new team member and get ahead in our planning for next year. Normally I’d be totally on board to do something like this, but I’ll be in recovery for at least six weeks. What do I say that doesn’t invite more questions and speculation? —HIPAA Take the Wheel

Dear H.T.T.W,

You have every right to medical privacy. First, you can definitely just say you won’t be there and leave it at that. However, if you’re close with your team, keep in mind that being vague might invite well-intended questions from people who care about you. (You certainly don’t have to answer those, either. It’s just an FYI.)

Here are some other options for things you can say. Emailing or texting might feel easier than talking in person.

“I have something going on this summer that prevents me from being there. I’m not comfortable talking about it. Just know I’ll be there in spirit!”

“A member of my family is having surgery this summer and will need around-the-clock care for at least six weeks. Let me know how I can contribute from afar!”

“I’m setting a boundary this summer to not do any work for school. I really need to rest and recover this summer. Let me know how I can help when we get back to school!”

Dear WeAreTeachers,
A rising senior at the high school where I teach offered to nanny for my two little girls over the summer. I taught her sophomore year and coached her in volleyball for two years and trust her completely. But when I told a coworker about our plan, she warned that it could be seen as an “inappropriate arrangement” and would cause drama with other volleyball parents. Am I making a terrible decision?  —I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye

Dear I.D.W.T.S.G.,

Lucky you! Finding childcare isn’t easy, let alone with someone you already trust and have a special relationship with.

Your coworker is trying to protect you. But as long as you will not teach or coach this student next school year, I think it’s fine. A few recommendations to keep your relationship peachy and your kids safe:

  • Run this plan by your principal so it’s on their radar.
  • Pay for CPR and first-aid certification for your student if they don’t already have it.
  • Plan time to check in with your student nanny each week. Make sure they know it’s a time for both of you to talk about how it’s going. Is there anything they need from you? Is there anything you should know? Is there anything you could do to make their job easier? Sometimes the most stellar kids have a hard time speaking up about what they need.
  • Make sure your student nanny knows any guidelines you have about phone, social media usage, screen time, transportation, or other things that could be contentious as it relates to the care of your children.

Have a great summer!

Do you have a burning question? Email us at askweareteachers@weareteachers.com.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
We have four sick days per year and two personal days from the state. Every year that I’ve been in the district (which is now 10), the board has always voted to give us additional days so that we have eight sick and four personal total. But this year, as a “solution” to the sub and teacher shortage in our area, the board approved removing the district days altogether, leaving us with only the state days. Do you think this is a temporary thing worth sticking out, or should I join everyone else in leaving now? —Make It Go Away


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