French teacher says tattoos cost him kindergarten job
PALAISEAU (FRANCE) – Schoolteacher Sylvain Helaine of France, who is known for his trademark tattoos that cover his body, face and tongue, has said he was barred from teaching at a kindergarten after a parent complained he scared their ward.
Helaine, 35, whose whites of the eye have been surgically turned black, still teaches children from the age of six. He said after an initial shock, kids get used to his appearance.
“All of my students and their parents were always cool with me because basically they knew me,” said Helaine, who has spent 460 hours under the tattooists’ needle.
“It’s only when people see me from far away that they can assume the worst.”
He said when he was teaching kindergarten students at the Docteur Morere Elementary School in the Parisian suburb of Palaiseau, the parents of a 3-year-old child lodged a complaint with the educational authorities, saying that their son, who was not taught by Helaine, suffered from nightmares after seeing him.
Two months later, the authorities informed him that he could no longer teach children in kindergarten. “I think the decision they took was quite sad,” said Helaine.
A local education authority spokesman said Helaine was told not to teach children under six as they “could be frightened by his appearance”.
In spite of the reaction from the authorities, he is determined to stick with his career. “I’m a primary school teacher … I love my job.”
Helaine started sporting tattoos from the age of 27 when he had an existential crisis while teaching in a private school in Britain.