When people think of tattoos and piercings, they think of them as something cool. There are many stereotypes about tough people that have them, like bikers and criminals. As it turns out, however, there are many teens, and even teachers, who have tattoos or piercings.
Rhys Wilkins is an 11-year-old girl in sixth grade. Like many girls her age, she has ear piercings. Wilkins decided to get her piercings because her sister said that she would look good with them. Another reason she decided to get them is that she wanted to wear real earrings instead of fakes.
“The piercing wasn’t painful, but was only a pinch on the ear,” she said. “Piercings are a good idea because it is a good way to express oneself. I think that any age, with parental guidelines, is good to have a piercing.”
Wilkins believes that body art is alright for students as long as parents are okay with it. She does not regret having a piercing.
Alyssa LaFrance is an eighth grade student. She also has two ear piercings. She decided to get a second ear piercing because she has a lot of earrings and wanted to fit more than one earring on an ear at a time.
“I was scared at first, but it doesn’t hurt at all and now I’m used to it,” LaFrance said.
LaFrance believes that tattoos and piercings are generally a good idea.
“It depends on how many and where you put them, but if there are too many or any crazy piercings, then sometimes it would be too much,” she said. “The piercing depends on what type it is. If it is an ear piercing, then it is fine for any age, but if it was any other piercing, then people should wait until about age fourteen.”
According to LaFrance, body art in really mild forms is appropriate for middle school students. LaFrance does not regret getting the piecings because she believes they look pretty and likes being able to wear earrings.
“I got my first ear piercing when I was a baby and my second piercing when I was 12,” she said.
Latina Vaughn is another eighth grade student with an ear-piercing.
“Tattoos and piercings are a good idea because that is when people can get to express themselves,” she said. “You’ve got to be around 12 to get a piercing, because that is when people start experimenting themselves. I think body art is appropriate for middle school because it shows who you really are.”
Not every middle school student thinks that tattoos and piercings are a good thing. Kingston Waddell, a seventh grade student, does not think that having a tattoo or piercing is a good idea.
“I also think that people can do whatever they want with their bodies,” he said. “You can get your tattoo or piercings at age 18, because that is the age you are turning into an adult. Kids might make stupid decisions if they get a tattoo or piercing.”
Kyle Gullion, an eighth grade student, agrees with Waddell.
“You need to be around 15 years old to get a tattoo or piercing, but that’s if the parents give you permission,” he said. “I wouldn’t do it, but I don’t mind that other people do it, because it is their decision.”
Norie-Anne Young, an 8th grade Language Arts teacher is generally against tattoos and some piercings.
“It’s like the ultimate commitment, and then if you regret it, you’re stuck,” she said. “Piercings can be removed, but still leave scars. So many girls I went to college with had belly button piercings, and I can honestly say, not one of them still wears theirs. So, being able to remove piercings is better.”
Young believes it is less about age and more about the preparation for getting a tattoo or piercing.
“For example, a person should wear a fake tattoo where they want their real one for 6 months before they do it,” she said. “And with so many faux pieces of jewelry, people should wear fake piercings for the same 6 months, and if they still want it, then get it.”
Young does not believe that body art is appropriate for middle school students.
“Style, choices, and interests all change very quickly for middle schoolers,” she said. “If I had to wear at 40 what I thought was a good idea at 14, God bless me.”
Stephen Baker is a 48-year-old teacher. He also coaches football and baseball. Baker has experienced two events that made him decide to get tattoos.
“The first event was when I was graduating from Mississippi State with my master’s degree,” he said. “I had a high school counselor that had told me that even earning a 2-year degree wasn’t in my future.”
Baker wanted this degree just for himself; he just wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.
The second event was when he adopted his daughter.
“Both of these represent ‘phoenix’ types of events; rising up from nothing to being super blessed,” he said. “Anything is possible for any person.”
Baker’s tattoos are located on his shoulders. Most people would never see them in his day to day life. His first tattoo shows the earthrise photo from the Apollo 8 mission along with the Mississippi State maroon “M” logo beneath it.
On his left shoulder, he bears the market name and stall number of his daughter’s finding spot. Beneath all of that, he has Chinese lanterns, the Great Wall and the scripture “a lamp until to feet and light unto my path”. His daughter’s path to him started at that very spot and it took that moment of her life to get to him.
“We call that her ‘finding spot’,” Baker said. “We all have a path that God starts us on and we choose the path thereafter. Each person on this Earth is special for that very reason.”
Both of his tattoos mark joyous occasions.
“I think that they were painful to a degree, but the joy of the images being placed on my shoulders permanently made it worth it,” he said. “Both of my tattoos represented things that I have suffered to get but were worth it in the end.”
Baker believes tattoos are a good idea, depending on each individual person.
“Tattoos are not for everyone, and I would not encourage everyone to get one,” he said. “I prayed for God to burn the image of my daughter’s finding spot in my brain and I think I did it to have it visually close to me wherever I go. Even if I acquire dementia, I’ll always have that moment near and dear to my heart.”
Tony Weaver is a sixth grade social studies teacher and soccer coach. He, too, has a tattoo. He decided to get his tattoo when his youngest son got his.
“He had been through a traumatic event and his tattoo helped him cope with this time in his life,” he said.
Weaver has his tattoo on his wrist. Looking at it reminds him of the miraculous journey he has been on. Weaver’s tattoo is inspired by the title of his favorite book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”. He also has the tattoo of a cross with the word “love” inside of it.
“The meaning behind my tattoo is that we all have a miraculous journey and we need to all be on a journey of love,” Weaver said. “My faith also played a big role in my tattoo. When I look back on my life, people might say that things happened by coincidence or by chance. I prefer to look at it as a miracle. In fact, my whole life has been a miracle.”
Weaver doesn’t think it appropriate for middle school students to get a tattoo.
“Once it is part of your body, it is there for the rest of your life,” he said. “What you might think is cool now, you may regret when you get older.”
Still, like most people who have gotten tattoos and piercings at Sevier Middle, he has no regrets.
“I do not regret getting my tattoo,” he said. “I did it in support of my son, and he is worth it. I also know the meaning behind my tattoo is part of who I am, so I will not regret it in the future.”