A tattoo fanatic who says that cumulatively he’s spent over 20 days in the tattooist’s chair and even has his eyeballs inked has been prevented from teaching young children.
Sylvain Helaine taught kindergarteners at the Docteur Morere Elementary School in Palaiseau, a suburb of Paris, until the mum of one pupil complained to his boss that Sylvain’s tattoos were “scaring” her three-year-old.
Sylvain, who even has tattoos on his tongue, says that while they might be shocked by his extreme body modification at first, most kids learn to “see past” his appearance.
“All of my students and their parents were always cool with me because basically, they knew me,” he said.
He added: “It’s only when people see me from far away that they can assume the worst.”
Sylvain told Reuters that after the parents of one very small child complained about his unusual appearance, he was told he could no longer teach the youngest age groups, because his extensive tattooing and surgically blackened eyeballs could frighten them.
However, he still teaches kids from the age of six up.
“I think the decision they took was quite sad,” he said.
Nevertheless, Sylvain says, he intends to continue with his vocation: “I’m a primary school teacher,” he says, “I love my job.”
Sylvain, now 35, said he got his first tattoo when he was 27.
He was teaching at a private school in London and had what he described as an “existential crisis” that set him off on the road to his current highly modified state.
He estimates he has spent around 460 hours under the tattooists’ needle.
“Getting tattoos is my passion,” he says.
He believes that his unconventional appearance is a positive asset when it comes to working with young people – because it will teach them to be less judgemental about others’ appearances.
“Maybe when they are adults they will be less racist and less homophobic and more open-minded,” he says.