A schoolteacher in France was upset after he was told he could not teach kindergarten any more because children under 6 years of age "could be frightened by his appearance."
Sylvain Helaine, 35, reportedly known in the tattoo world as "Freaky Hoodie," has had his body, face, and tongue completely covered in tattoos and even had his eyes surgically turned black.
Yet he told Reuters the school's decision to remove him from his previous post was "quite sad." Most of his students are "cool" with his appearance and are able to see past it, he argued.
"All of my students and their parents were always cool with me because basically they knew me," said Helaine, who has spent an estimated 460 hours under the tattooists' needles. "It's only when people see me from far away that they can assume the worst."
Frenchman says tattoos cost him kindergarten teaching job youtu.be
Helaine was reportedly teaching kindergarten at the Docteur Morere Elementary School in the Paris suburb of Palaiseau when the parents of a 3-year-old child complained to school authorities that their son had nightmares after seeing him. The child was not a student of Helaine's.
According to the Reuters report, a couple of months later, the school informed Helaine that he would no longer be able to teach kindergartners due to his appearance. A spokesman for the local education authority expressed that children under 6 years of age "could be frightened by his appearance."
"I think the decision they took was quite sad," he said.
Nevertheless, Helaine is determined to continue teaching, and an agreement made with the school allowed him to stay on as a teacher for children over 6 years old.
"I'm a primary school teacher ... I love my job," he told Reuters.
He has no plans to stop tattooing himself, either. Helaine said he started getting tattoos when he was 27 after he went through what he called an "existential crisis." And since then, it has become his "passion."
Now he hopes that his students will be inspired because of him to be more accepting of those who are different.
"Maybe when they are adults they will be less racist and less homophobic and more open-minded," he said.