A French schoolteacher whose entire body is covered in tattoos and has had the whites of his eyes surgically turned black said he was prevented from teaching kindergarten after a parent complained he scared their child.
Sylvain Helaine, who is considered to be France’s most tattooed man, was teaching kindergarten at the Docteur Morere Elementary School in Palaiseau, a suburb of Paris, last year when the parents of a child complained to educational authorities.
They said their three-year-old son, who was not taught by Helaine, had nightmares after seeing him.
According to the report by Reuters, the school authorities later informed him he would no longer teach kindergarten children. “I think the decision they took was quite sad,” said Helaine.
A spokesman for the local education authority said an agreement was reached with Helaine to move him away from teaching kindergarten. Pupils under six “could be frightened by his appearance”, the spokesman said.
Despite the setbacks, Helaine said he would stick with his chosen career. “I’m a primary school teacher … I love my job.”
He, however, still teaches children from the age of six up. He claims that after an initial shock when they see him for the first time, his pupils see past his appearance.
“All of my students and their parents were always cool with me because basically they knew me,” he said. “It’s only when people see me from far away that they can assume the worst.”
Sylvain Helaine started getting tattoos at the age of 27, while teaching at a private school in London, he said he had an “existential crisis”. Since then, he has spent over £35,000 and an estimated 460 hours under the tattooists’ needle.
“Getting tattoos is my passion,” he said.
Helaine said he hoped to show his pupils that they should accept people who are different from the norm. “Maybe when they are adults they will be less racist and less homophobic and more open-minded,” he said.