We have followed ludicrous examples of the bureaucratic rules in schools with regard to the denial of aspirin or inhalers to students. Now it appears that school officials across the country are allowing students to develop serious sun burns because they consider sun block to be a drug requiring parental permission. It sounds like something straight out of The Onion but it is true. In the meantime, school officials in the Washington area have successfully blocked a measure to require parental notification of police interrogations of their children, even in cases of serious alleged misconduct.
In New York and Washington, children have suffered extreme sunburns — including burns requiring hospital care — because school officials refused to allow the use of sun block without signed parental consent.
In some districts, school policy only allows for sunscreen to be applied with a signed doctor’s note because it is viewed as a medication. The reason is that some children could have an allergic reaction. California is the only state that allows sunscreen without permission from a doctor.
Yet, when it comes to protecting the rights of children, principals joined together in Fairfax County to block a measure calling for parental notice of police interrogations. Forty-seven Fairfax middle and high school principals testified that the proposals requiring parental notice or consent shows “a lack of trust and confidence.” They further objected to the harm it would cause to their administrative and security concerns. Police often interrogate children at schools where they are pulled from their classes and isolated in a room with school officials and police officers. It is a highly coercive environment where children are not given the most basic protections afforded to adults.
The decision by Fairfax (where my children go to public school) comes after well-documented abuses involving the interrogation of children at schools. It also came after the Supreme Court rebuked police in J.D.B. v. North Carolina (Case No. 09-11121) this month — holding 5-4 that a child’s age can be a relevant factor when determining whether a juvenile suspect merits a Miranda warning about his rights against self-incrimination. That case involved a North Carolina student who was 13 years old in 2005 when he was interrogated at school concerning a series of thefts in the neighborhood. School officials were willing participants in the interrogation.
So, schools officials require signed parental consent for an aspirin or sun block but refuse to even given parental notice of police interrogations. A rather curious set of priorities if the best interests of the child is the standard.