Augusta County’s ‘Chapstick Girl’ has gone viral, AP, Fox News calling – UPDATED: School board responds

Karaffa, GraceBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Ten-year-old Grace Karaffa’s common sense question asking why it is against Virginia’s Augusta County School Board rules to carry Chapstick to school has gone viral. Now Fox News has come calling.

Grace attended last week’s school board meeting armed with petitions that included over 200 signatures asking that they reconsider the rule prohibiting students from carrying lip balm to school. She has become the Shenandoah Valley’s “Chapstick Girl.”

I wrote earlier this week (see Grace Karaffa, 10, petitions Augusta School Board to allow Chapstick in schools):

Augusta County Supervisor David Karaffa, 30, had better watch his back. He has political competition from within the four walls of his own home. Karaffa’s ten-year-old daughter Grace petitioned the Augusta County School Board at their Thursday night meeting to have the school system’s ChapStick policy changed. ChapStick in Augusta County is categorized by the school system as a medication.

Armed with petitions that held more than 200 signatures, Grace attended the meeting to address representatives and presented her position asking school officials to allow students to have possession of the regular, non-medicated lip balm at school.

WHSV TV-3 was there and picked up her story for their broadcast (see video of school board meeting). Political reporter Bob Stuart was there for the News-Virginian (see Student’s chapped lips lead to policy change request).

Grace stated that ChapStick is relatively harmless when you take into account that children can bring peanut butter crackers to school which could cause more harm than ChapStick in terms of an allergic reaction. In addition, she noted, the school encourages the use of suntan lotion by students. Suntan lotion is not considered a medication but protects the skin. ChapStick, Grace stated, was like suntan lotion for the lips.

She is not the first to question why ChapStick and similar lip balms are banned. Four years ago parents in a North Carolina public school system approached school officials after notification that a parental permission slip or doctor’s note would be required for children to have lip balm (see Schools’ limit on lip balm irks some parents). The reason given in that instance was fear that children would share with other children, stating the health department was requiring the crack-down. A similar reason was offered by school officials in Augusta County. Stuart wrote:

George Earhart, the assistant superintendent for administration with the Augusta County Schools, said Chapstick is considered an over-the-counter medication by the school board. The board has a policy regarding such medicines. He said Chapstick could be allowed if a physician asked for a student to use it, and it was administered by a school nurse.

Earhart said one of the reasons for the policy is concerns about elementary students sharing medications. He said the student’s request was taken under advisement by the school board. The school administration will communicate with the Karaffa family and could also report back to the school board.

With petitions, signatures, and a school board presentation under her belt, will this pint-sized future politician be able to convince the powers-that-be to change school policy? One thing’s for sure … she’s following in the Karaffa tradition.

Since writing that post, the story has been picked up by political reporter Calvin Trice at Staunton’s News Leader (see Draft student takes Chapstick cause to leaders) and the local CBS affiliate (see Fifth grader petitions school board to end policy banning Chapstick), the Palm Beach Post (see Virginia fifth-grader denied use of Chapstick), and on public radio station WVTF (see Controversy over Chapstick).

The Associated Press has reported on it (see Va. student seeks right to use Chapstick in school).

Fox News has a link up at their website (see Fifth-grade girl fights ChapStick ban before Virginia school board).

The Daily Mail out of London notes, “Fifth-grader says she’s not allowed to use ChapStick at school because it’s considered an ‘over-the-counter drug’ “ They included photos and the WHSV-TV 3 video.

It was picked up by Reason.com blog who snarked, “School board bans Chapstick: Gateway drug to what … Maybe Burt’s Bees Lip Balm?” They noted, “The extent of idiotic zero-tolerance policies in public schools is almost unbelievable. Now comes this new example from Augusta County schools in Virginia – banning chapstick.”

Homeschool mom Mande Wilkes posted on her blog (see Ritalin Is Good, But Chapstick Is Bad?) and observed:

Naturally this is over-the-top, beyond-the-pale ridiculous. And unfortunately, this isn’t a phase or a fluke or a blip on the radar. This is the “new normal” in American schools: militarized, regimented little fiefdoms reigned over by lazy simpletons.

As young Grace accurately clarified for the school board, Chapstick is simply “a little tube of Vaseline,” not a pharmaceutical product.

Meanwhile, of course, a number of Grace’s peers are being pharmaceutically lulled into compliance by actual medicines like the ADD pill Ritalin as well as a menagerie of antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Diagnoses of childhood ADD, ADHD, OCD, depression, and generalized anxiety disorder have absolutely skyrocketed in the past decade. In so many cases, it’s at the schools’ behest that students are medicated, because tranquilized kids are obviously easier to wrangle.

Next up was The Inquisitor (see Chapstick Banned in Public Schools; Burt and his Bees to be Next?).

The Alex Jones radio shop Info Wars posted an article by Mikael Thalen about the story that generated many comments (see School Labels Chapstick ‘over-the-counter drug,’ demands students bring doctor’s note).

I was talking about this issue when a teacher in a public school system in another part of Virginia questioned the policy. I told her the school’s reasoning was because the children could share and her response was, “If not that, they will find something else!” She works with elementary children.

We’ll keep updating here as news agencies cover it. Grace Karaffa has gone viral.

UPDATED 9/10/2014 at 4:55 p.m.: The Augusta County School Board has responded by saying there was a herpes outbreak several years ago and the decision was made to ban lip balm (see Augusta School Lip Balm Issue Due to Herpes at WHSV TV-3):

Several years ago, the school division decided to treat lip balms, including Chapstick, like other types of over-the-counter non-prescription medications and remedies. The decision to do so was based on the recommendation of the division’s School Health Advisory Committee. The School Health Advisory Committee is comprised of local physicians, local state health department officials, school administrators and parents, and advises the school division on a host of school health and student medical concerns. The Committee made the recommendation to more carefully control and limit the use of lip balms by elementary students because of an outbreak of herpes that occurred several years ago at one of the division’s elementary schools. Health officials were concerned that the sharing of items like Chapstick, lip gloss and other lip balm products among elementary-aged students might well have been contributing to a serious infectious disease outbreak. The school division chose to control the use of these products not because of a concern that they are inherently dangerous, but out of a concern that they may have been a means for the transmission of disease.

Hmm. I don’t remember hearing about a big herpes outbreak several years ago … I must have missed the news of the epidemic when it occurred. A quick google search turned up a 2011 skin herpes outbreak in West Virginia with wrestlers (see WHSV TV-3’s Investigating Herpes Outbreak after WVA Wrestling Tournament) but couldn’t find anything herpes-related in Augusta County. Please post in the comments if you know when that occurred, what age group it affected, and what schools.

Photo courtesy of David Karaffa

Cross-posted at SWAC Girl

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One thought on “Augusta County’s ‘Chapstick Girl’ has gone viral, AP, Fox News calling – UPDATED: School board responds

  1. […] It’s been over a week since 10-year-old Grace Karaffa aka Chapstick Girl took her request to the Augusta County School Board asking that they reverse a ban forbidding students from having Chapstick lip balm at school (see Augusta County ‘Chapstick Girl’ has gone viral, AP, Fox News calling – Updated: Sc…). […]

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