Is body art acceptable for teachers?
Tattoos are as old as the hills yet they can divide people into lovers and haters. You might have a tattoo, and why not? It’s your body. But if you are role model for young people, should tattoos be allowed?
Tattoos are everywhere. Around 1 in 5 adults in the UK has invested in some body art and for young adults this is about 1 in 3. But tattoos aren't popular with everyone.
The social interpretation of tattoos has changed significantly over the last few years. No longer faded blue symbols associated with sailors and subversion, modern tattoos have burst triumphantly into the mainstream - stunning examples of exceptionally talented art expertly crafted over several hours onto the most beautiful of canvases.
Still, some say that tattoos are ugly and send out the wrong message to children, but what is that message?
One common argument is that children exposed to professionals with tattoos may not fully appreciate how negatively tattoos are interpreted by future employers. But are they these days? Last year's study cited in the Independent showed that having tattoos no longer affects your chances of getting a job.
Is non-conformity so bad?
Imagine educating children in the most open minded, most artistic environment where they could be taught by utterly expert individuals who can give children the chance to bloom into their most individual version of themselves, without the restrictions of social expectation, conformity or even gender. By excluding those unique individuals who are celebrating the world through art on their bodies, we significantly reduce the pot of free-thinkers from which we are recruiting our teachers.
Parents can be split either way as well with those saying that teachers are professionals and role models and carry a social responsibility. And then there are those who say "as long they are good at their jobs, what does it matter?"
Perhaps not making a fuss about tattoos helps combat prejudice. Schools with an accepting, positive attitude toward tattoos helps normalise them. They might also open up topics of conversation around important topics.
The issue seems to be not whether is it okay for lecturers to have tattoos but whether what the body art communicates. A butterfly or love hearts seem to be fine but tattoos become 'controversial' when they can be misinterpreted or might cause offence as worldviews collide.
Others are often labelled as "mistakes", as in the case of many footballers; no one would expect a lecturer to be allowed to display his support for fascism on his biceps and then teach PSHE.
Having a tattoo is a personal choice but there are consequences when the message is political, religious or sexual. No different from a large poster in your classroom emblazoned with a strong opinion, these tattoos are where it can can get tricky for school staff.
None of your business
It's up to individual schools and colleges to provide clear guidance on appearance so that teachers present a professional image; and it is here that school leaders have the difficult decision on how much self-expression to allow. When it comes to running a school or college, it is literally their business. Parent views are a major factor here, of course. Perhaps it is time to poll your parents on such matters.
There are tattoos that are funny and cute and can easily be accepted into most people's world views. But then there's some ink that can cause a real stink. Where a tattoo is out of order then senior leaders have to step in to address an image that is going to provoke upset or outrage.
In a school environment, visible tattoos are deemed unacceptable if they could reasonably be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive and/or indicate attitudes or views which are inconsistent with the agreed code of practice for teachers' standards. Tattoos that are rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic, violent or intimidating are simply not aligned with government standards for teaching, visible or not.
The bigger picture
Is it backwards thinking to ban tattoos when we teach children not to judge someone by their appearance? We are also in a severe shortage climate for teachers: tattoos might not always be welcome… but if you need to fill a gap in a shortage subject, perhaps it's time to rethink the assumptions.
Are you a teacher with a tattoo? Or do you have a view? Leave your comment here.