Tattoos are a great form of self-expression. Whether you’re drawn to a simple rose design or complex sleeve tattoos, there’s no end to the potential that comes with making your body a beautiful canvas. Unfortunately, tattoos aren’t always viewed as professional — and in many cases, they can serve as an obstacle when getting your first job as a qualified teacher.
Teachers can have tattoos, but it depends on the specific school policy. Some schools allow teachers to have a visible tattoo, while others encourage hiding any form of body art as part of their dress code. In some cases, schools may even refuse to hire teachers with tattoos.
If you’re considering becoming a teacher with tattoos, you’ll need to accept the risk that not every school setting will be supportive. But if tattoos are important to you, it’s safe to say that you can find a school district that will support you and your self-expression with the right amount of dedication.
Why Are Teachers Discouraged From Having Tattoos?
Tattoos are becoming increasingly common every year, and the stigma that used to be associated with having tattoos is slowly disappearing. Generally, tattoos are viewed as a form of self-expression — and while some people consider them unprofessional, it’s generally accepted that having body art isn’t an indicator of someone’s lifestyle or morality.
Unfortunately, many people still hold the same pessimistic outlook on tattoos, including school leaders. Sometimes, this can significantly impact your chances of getting a teaching job. In particular, religious schools and traditional, conservative communities tend to discourage tattoos. And while an excellent resume and attire that suitably covers the tattoos may help you secure one of these jobs, it’s worth considering whether or not you think having a tattoo is worth the stigma.
There are many reasons why a school board may look down on teaching staff with tattoos. One of the most common reasons tattoos are discouraged is that many school districts believe hiring a person with tattoos sends the wrong message to students and parents. They think that employing teachers with tattoos indicates that the school is unprofessional, holds its staff to low standards, and sometimes even fears that students’ morality will be harmed.
While these beliefs might seem unreasonable, they hold the same power as any other stigma. And when it’s your income and career on the line, it’s worth seriously considering if having a tattoo is worth it as you navigate the possibility of working as a tattooed teacher. By carefully considering how to prioritize your career and your self-expression, you can find a balance and enable yourself to navigate these issues more effectively.
Does the Law Protect Teachers With Tattoos?
When navigating a situation where stigmas harm your ability to earn a living and pursue your career, it’s not unusual to wonder whether you have any legal protections. Depending on the country, people with tattoos are sometimes afforded protection by the law.
In the United States, no federal protections are provided to people with tattoos. Tattoos aren’t included in the protected classes outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and even in the proposed Equality Act of 2019, no protections are given for people with tattoos. The legal consensus is generally that businesses are allowed to hold their employees to a standard of professional attire — including tattoos — unless doing so would violate the rights of a protected class.
Tattoos aren’t protected by the law in Canada, either. Although the Human Rights Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms provide many protections to Canadians, they don’t outline any protections for people with tattoos or other body modifications. Businesses are required to prove that their tattoo policies are reasonable, however. Many tattoo coverup policies have been struck down as unenforceable due to broad wording and poor or nonexistent evidence to justify the policies.
Even in the United Kingdom, there aren’t any protections from discrimination given to people with body art because it’s viewed as a choice. It’s even legal to be fired for getting a new tattoo or uncovering an old hidden one if your employer feels it makes your business look unprofessional.
In many countries, having tattoos doesn’t just put you at a disadvantage — it can get you in legal trouble. In countries like Japan and Turkey, tattoos are viewed as severely distasteful and considered to have a strong connotation with immoral and criminal behavior, which are not traits that they want to be passed onto their young people! If you plan to teach abroad or aren’t sure about your home country, you should research ahead of time to ensure that you’re able to stay on the right side of the law.
Do Tattoos Negatively Impact the Ability To Teach?
While it’s safe to say that tattoos may not help you get a job, there’s not much evidence indicating that tattoos worsen a teacher’s ability to teach. As long as your tattoos are appropriate, they can even represent another way to engage with your class and encourage self-expression.
Can Teachers Have Tattoos?
Whether they live in Canada, the United States, or the UK, teachers can have tattoos in most countries. Unfortunately, there aren’t many countries where having tattoos is a protected characteristic, and in some places having tattoos can ultimately put you at a disadvantage and even get you in legal trouble.
In any case, while there are still stigmas against people with tattoos worldwide, times are changing. The perception of tattoos as unprofessional and criminal is becoming increasingly uncommon. One day, people with tattoos may not have to face stigmas like these to pursue their careers. Until then, you may be denied a job as a kindergarten, high school, or elementary school teacher simply because you have body art.
Until these stigmas change, you must consider what’s important to you as you consider your future career as a teacher with tattoos. Self-expression and success are both important, and with the proper care to balance the two, you’re sure to find a lifestyle you’ll love — and perhaps even a successful career as a teacher with tattoos.
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