Inked Out from Middle School Career Fair

A tattoo artist was not permitted to attend a career fair, as his occupation choice will negatively influence the young students.

Last month, in Clearwater Middle School in Florida, Walter Smith was justifiably banned from career day because of complaints from other parents, who believed Smith promoted an “alternative lifestyle” as a tattoo artist. Smith intends to fight this decision, claiming the parents are “closed-minded.” He refers to his profession as a creator of art, not realizing that middle school students, who have barely entered adolescence, won’t see it that way.

Tattoos have been viewed as a symbol of rebellion since the 1970s, when the working class young people of the Punk movement used them explicitly to protest against the restrictions of society’s rigid class structure and values. This was the era when tattoos first became popular, and the negative connotation of bearing tattoos has not yet faded.

Career day is the student’s first exposure to different types of career fields. Its purpose is to inspire the students to academically aim high. This day is certainly significant and beneficial for students in order to help them think about their future and decide on what they’re interested in pursuing.  In this case, bringing a tattoo artist to the event is not serving the same purpose.

Though Smith has stated that he intends to educate the students about health risks that underage or unlicensed tattoos entail, he does not take into account that precautions are not going to be the first thing that comes to the minds of most 12-year-olds when they think of tattoos. If all children were capable of following through warnings taught at school, then one would expect a reduction in the amount of underage drinking and drug abuse. But it doesn’t. According to a recent study conducted by Inspirations Youth, 60% of drug abusers are from ages 12 to 17, despite that most of these teenagers have received formal education on the dangers of drug usage. Clearly, younger children do not heed the precautions that these adults have intended to teach.

Naturally, parents are concerned with what their child would be exposed to at school. What Smith refers to as “closed-minded” is very subjective. Some parents may have welcomed the exposure of tattoos, but many more parents have expressed their desire to shelter their child. The school must respect the parents’ personal decision toward their child. Smith needs to accept the fact that most parents believe his occupation is inappropriate in a school environment and stop trying to force his presence there.

The parents and the school administration aren’t trying to block out “art” from the fair—just his stigmatic medium of expression. Tattoos are undeniably symbols of rebellion, and bringing a tattoo artist to a pre-teen career fair would only promote the concept of tattoos. Smith isn’t wrong to be a tattoo artist. But some things just don’t belong in school.