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Principals decide: offensive or just artistic?

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published June 6, 2007


LAND O'LAKES - The Pasco County School Board's new policy for employees is deceptively simple: "Visible body piercings and tattoos that are offensive to community standards will be restricted."

But what does it mean?

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino says principals will get to decide. If they're not sure, they can call the district administration. She preferred not to dabble in what-ifs, saying guidance will come as situations arise.

Her advice: "Though you may want something today, be sure it's something you'll want when you're 40. ... Your MySpace, your tattoo, your piercing, all that represents you, and what is the image that you want out there when you become an adult and when you seek employment?"

Board Chairwoman Marge Whaley raised doubts about how the policy will be implemented, and wasn't even sure how it would apply to current employees. She said she hoped principals will discuss their plans.

Whaley felt certain about one thing - bandages would not suffice in covering obscene tattoos. "An offensive tattoo is going to be offensive, period."

Vice chairwoman Kathryn Starkey, who called herself conservative, wondered why anyone would want a tattoo, anyway. If they must, she said, "small and tasteful" should prevail. As for piercings, "No more than two per ear during school time," Starkey suggested.

Whaley jumped in. Even two board members who generally get along fine disagree on this policy, which won unanimous approval. "That's why I'm concerned about this," Whaley said.

Fast Facts:

Voice your opinion

What do you think? Where does the community standard lie? Is there a different one for New Port Richey than for Wesley Chapel or Dade City? Send your views to solochek@sptimes.com.