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Schools

6 of 10 don't mind tattoos

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published June 7, 2007


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LAND O'LAKES - The tattoos win.

Sixty percent of the readers responding to our question about the Pasco County school district's decision to restrict employees' visible tattoos and piercings said the School Board should mind its own business.

Among them, several suggested that a teacher's competence - not his or her appearance - should matter in hiring decisions. That's especially true, many said, when considering how tough it is to find good teachers these days.

"There is a teacher shortage in Florida and to ban qualified individuals based on the principal's personal aesthetic is silly, " wrote Mahja. Sorry, lots of our correspondents didn't give full names. Mahja added that if the district wants to deal with "offensive" appearance, the guidelines should be clear and consistently enforced.

A number of readers agreed that the vagueness of the policy could open the door to legal challenges.

"No matter how you look at this issue, it's discrimination. It's one group of people enforcing their own morals and judgments on another group of individuals, " wrote Bryan Rosengarten.

Added a teacher, who did not give a name, "Everything is open to being 'tasteful.' If the teachers can't wear them, we might as well tell the parents to cover all theirs in front of the kids also. What a riot."

Eric B. wondered if the board planned to implement a weight or beauty policy for its employees next. Lots of folks talked about an adult's freedom to choose. Many said the board should focus on more important matters.

"If the decisionmakers in the education system would spend more time focusing on how to better the actual education in our schools, we would be heading in the right direction, " wrote Joan.

The passionate 40 percent who supported the district's position for the most part took a blunt and simple position: Be professional, look the part.

"Tattoos are fine, but not to put on display in front of young, impressionable people, " Chris Lawless wrote.

Lisa Maltese wrote that teachers are supposed to be role models, and tattoos and piercings are not the norm to be modeling for youngsters like her son in elementary school.

Another parent, Mark Malinak, contended that a lack of professional appearance erodes discipline in the classroom.

As for the potential lawsuits, James argued that one would lose quickly. The board is well within its legal rights to set limits on appearance, he wrote.

A couple of readers from each side noted that this issue soon could become a relic. They recalled that the debates about hair length and color, types of shoes and other appearance-related matters have come and gone as society has evolved. This too will pass, they said.

Board members welcomed the input, even though it all came after the fact.

"I just keep waiting for someone to speak up (at a meeting). But no one does, " chairwoman Marge Whaley said.

But they did not figure the comments would have swayed the unanimous vote.

"I think it's fine to have boundaries, " vice chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said. "I think our boundary was set with a lot of flexibility and discretion of the school-based administrators. I don't anticipate problems. I think our administrators are reasonable people."

A teacher's appearance "shouldn't be any sort of distraction, " board member Frank Parker said. "We need to make sure people understand they need to abide by community standards."

Whaley still harbored doubts about the policy, despite her yes vote.

"Experience leads me to believe that there is trouble ahead, " she said. "I just feel like we have no implementation guidelines, and we will revisit this."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com (813) 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505 ext. 4614. For more education news, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

You said. . .

60%

of readers who responded said the School Board should mind its own business.

40%

of readers supported the School Board's decision.

[Last modified June 7, 2007, 07:14:49]


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