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School board defends tattooed teacher deemed 'too cool' for school

The Local/rm · 13 Apr 2011, 10:46

Published: 13 Apr 2011 10:46 GMT+02:00

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"The media circus round this has surpassed my wildest expectations," Aalto told The Local.

Father of five, Sam Aalto, is in his forties and has been teaching at Vasaskolan in Skövde for eight years.

He is described by the school as highly competent and is liked by colleagues and students alike.

The problems started when pensioner and local politician Sture Grönwall, 70, visited the school and spied Aalto’s tattoos, piercings and spiky hair across the school canteen.

“Can a teacher really look like that,” a startled Grönwall asked, according to the Aftonbladet daily.

After speaking to one of the headmasters and not getting the response he was after, Grönwall decided to write to the local school board (Skolnämnden).

In his letter he questioned the example a teacher like Aalto would set for students as well as the values of the school letting someone like Aalto teach there.

The school board however did not share Grönwall’s view, coming out in defence of Aalto and Vasaskolan.

“To let our students solely see adults with no tattoos or piercings and wearing suits would not show them an accurate view of today’s society,” they wrote in their response to Grönwall's complaint.

Sam Aalto meanwhile expressed surprise at Grönwall’s reaction as well as the 'media circus' cropping up around him.

“I have been working here since 2003 and the subject has never been brought up before - no one has ever reacted. I never knew that Grönwall had complained before I found out about the whole thing through the local press," he said.

According to Aalto it isn't the fact that Grönwall questioned his look but the way he went about it that is questionable.

"In a democracy everyone has the right to ask the question, it is the moralising aspect of Grönwall's opinion which I object to," he said.

Aalto said to Aftonbladet at the time that when his finances allow he will add to his existing body art.

The locals in the rural town of Skövde were meanwhile split on the issue.

When asked by a local TV channel, young people said there should be no restrictions whereas pensioners of a similar age to Sture Grönwall did not like the idea of a tattooed schoolteacher.

Sture Grönwall is meanwhile unrepentant, expressing consternation at the flak thrown in his direction in the press.

Story continues below…

“They say that politicians shouldn’t meddle in what teachers wear – but then who should?“ Grönwall asked during an interview with SR.

When asked if this was merely a question of different values for different age groups, Grönwall conceded that it might have something to do with it.

“But brought up in the old style of schooling, I believe that school should be both morally and academically educated and properly prepare children for society and labour market,” he said.

If the response from the school board is anything to go by however, that is exactly what they feel they are doing by defending Aalto.

"I am happy about the support that I have received since the incident and I bear no personal grudges against Sture Grönwall," Aalto told The Local.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:12 April 13, 2011 by JulieLou40
Silly old duffer. Should have kept his big nose out of it. What does it matter if a teacher has tattoos and spiky hair? As long as the guy is a competent teacher, then I (as a parent) wouldn't give a toss about the tattoos.
12:56 April 13, 2011 by StockholmSam
As a student, I had loads of teachers who combed their hair the right way and wore suits to work but were worthless teachers. As a teacher today, I have several colleagues who are fantastic in the classroom and yet they have lots of tattoos and colored hair. Unfortunately, I also have several colleagues who look very "professional" and wear the right clothes yet are not very good teachers at all. Neither are they good colleagues.
13:27 April 13, 2011 by Daniel Hynes
Mr Sture Grönwall your concerns should be about his ability as a teacher not his fashion sense.. Maybe it's time you retired from politics.....
13:30 April 13, 2011 by dammen
Would he have the same reaction if the issue of school uniform was brought up - here in Sweden they are against the uniform - but it reduces the competition for looks and money that is set up by young kids even in dagis wanting designer clothes.

I agree - it is the quality of the teaching that is important - not how you look especially in some of the poorer schools from lower socioeconomic areas - they need quality not looks

Silly old fool
13:40 April 13, 2011 by Syftfel
The School Board must stop defending this teacher. Clearly, he is a poor role model for impressionable students, and in the interest of preserving minimum standards of appearance, he must not be allowed to teach class. Noone denies him to have the tatoos, it's just that he can't teach young kids in such a condition. In most cases tatoos are linked with criminality and stints in jail. This is most definitely a case where "anything goes" does not apply. This teacher should find something else to do, other than trying to impose his visually offensive, abnormal, persona in an educational environment. We have to preserve some standards here. Where does one draw the line? A nazi uniform? Get him out of the classroom. Now!
13:48 April 13, 2011 by Rick Methven

"in most cases tatoos are linked with criminality and stints in jail"

And I expect you have proof to back up this statement...

or maybe it is just another of your bigoted fantasies
13:59 April 13, 2011 by Syftfel
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:12 April 13, 2011 by JulieLou40
" syftfel: Surely you must be having a laugh? Are you in actual fact, the old duffer that started the whole carry on?

And as for tattoos being linked with criminality and stints in jail: What a pile of crap. I have a tattoo and I have never been in jail.

Drag yourself into the modern age, man!
14:16 April 13, 2011 by Nemesis
He should only be judged on his performance as a teacher.

What matters is this, if he can get the children to learn.

In this case it is clear he is a good teacher.

@ Syftfel,

Regarding your bizarre comments about tattooing, it is clear you are imposing your personal bigotry in your comments.

For a balanced look at tattooing I suggest you read this link.


You will see that everyone from cleaners to royalty gets tattoo's. There is nothing wrong with having a tattoo.

What is wrong with you, is your puritan mindset which really has no place in modern Europe.
16:08 April 13, 2011 by uunbeliever
@ Syftfel either you are a troll, good one, or an idiot. It is not our job as teachers to raise your kids, that is your job as a parent. Complaining about diversity is the last thing that Sweden should be complaining about... Is he not allowed to wear a turban either? Or a Kippah? Just a swastika?

Kudos to Sam!!!
16:16 April 13, 2011 by Douglas Garner
So... based upon the "representative of society" comment, should we also assure that a percentage of our teachers cannot not speak Swedish or English, should be convicted sex offenders, or are in some way representative of persons who seek to live off of the welfare system instead of contribute to it?

Why suggest to students that it is quite acceptable to dress provacatively, have tatoos and piercings representative of whatever or other behavior or appearance which will make it more difficult to obtain a job OF THEIR CHOICE or limit their choices for employment available to them as many firms are absolutely not willing to portray such an image?
16:29 April 13, 2011 by Swedesmith
He may be an excellent teacher but (to me) he looks ridiculous. I must be getting old.....
17:10 April 13, 2011 by Carbarrister
I don't give a damn about a tat or two but if you look like that clown you better be able to play the guitar or dunk a basketball. Otherwise you will be in prison or otherwise on welfare.. or apparently a teacher. No company will hire you for a significant position.
17:38 April 13, 2011 by star10
The question is whether the way the teachers dress influences students attitude (and probably pattern) of their own dressing. In today's labor market, appearance matters. And we don't want the kids to be influenced to have appearances that negatively affect their success in the labor market. Of course, how do you set such dressing codes is contestable.
17:44 April 13, 2011 by Rap43
Personally, I dislike tattoos and I would never have one. Our friend, Sam, might think I am hopelessly out-of-touch, but, we are both entitled to our opinions.

How a person looks is immaterial. If a person happened to be black or have large breasts - should we then say this is not 'normal' in this part of Sweden - you cannot be a teacher. Nonsense!

In my view, narrow-minded bigotry and/or a willingness to try to inflict your own beliefs on others is a far more serious problem than a bit of ink under someone's skin.

My kids would LOVE this guy!
18:24 April 13, 2011 by SimonDMontfort
Interesting that his bosses have rightly defended the teacher (if he is good at his job) despite someone complaining about how he looks.

Yet in the UK, I could easily imagine him being 'replaced' for some trumped up excuse like 'not dressing appropriately'.
19:48 April 13, 2011 by Mzungu
Yup! ....Looks the part as a role model, for the future generation...

*enough said*
22:03 April 13, 2011 by Swedesmith
Dude's really gonna look goofy when he's 60.
22:08 April 13, 2011 by Uggla
@ Syftfel

Before you point fingers at an obviously educated man, maybe you first should take some of his classes so that you can learn how to spell as well.
09:34 April 14, 2011 by liban91
don't charge a book with its cover.
09:50 April 14, 2011 by stupr
@ Carbarrister and Syftfel

You guys are seriously deluded and your blatant stereotyping is really sad.

If you think this guy is inept as a teacher because he dresses different from you then you really are small minded. There is only one issue that should be discussed - is he a good teacher or not. Full stop.
10:20 April 14, 2011 by Angry Ami
Just plain stupid, the guy has been teaching all this time, and sounds like he's good at his job and the kids can relate to him, and some goof politician wants to cause trouble, does phrase " never judge a book by it's cover " exist in Swedish, if so then someone need to relay that to Mr.Grönwall.
10:59 April 14, 2011 by StockholmSam
Two points:

First, I see a problem when people think the focus of our educational system is to create laborers that can "get a job." Education should focus on giving skills and applying knowledge, yes, but moreso on expanding knowledge and pushing boundaries to create greater understanding and improving theories. I don't want a school system that creates an army of workers; I want an army of thinkers and creators.

Second, if a company refuses to hire someone talented because of their looks, perhaps the problem lies with that company. Today it is this guy's tattoos, tomorrow it is your child's physical handicap or cleft palate that determines his potential to find work.

I like the idea of having diversity represented in the workplace and in schools. That does not mean I think sex offenders and other criminals should be represented, as Douglas Garner seems to believe.

I will admit, though, that if I wanted to place my hard-earned money into an investment vehicle, the last person I would want as an advisor is the teacher in the picture. He looks like the kind of person who does not make good long-term decisions. On the other hand, the financial industry is run by clean-cut suits with high educations and look where that has gotten us. Bunch of crooks the lot of 'em.
11:06 April 14, 2011 by technoviking

"in most cases tatoos are linked with criminality and stints in jail"

Maybe in 1950 that is... Beware those greasers.
12:07 April 14, 2011 by Rick Methven
I think Stig Larsson has done an excellent job in bunking the concept that you have to look the part to do the work
12:52 April 14, 2011 by soultraveler3
He looks young and cool, nothing wrong with that. In fact, his look may help him connect with his students. The school has said that he's a good teacher so the old politician needs to find something else to complain about.
13:17 April 14, 2011 by Jes
Tootos are a sign that someone is a damn fool .
15:32 April 14, 2011 by jomamas
Maybe he should teach in the nude.

After all, we all have bodies.

What would be the 'moral' objection to that?

How would you object to your children being taught by a naked teacher?
16:45 April 14, 2011 by Rick Methven
@jes "Tootos are a sign that someone is a damn fool ."

The fool is the one who can not spell tattoo
08:51 April 15, 2011 by cogito
by Rick Methven "I think Stig Larsson has done an excellent job in bunking the concept that you have to look the part to do the work."

?????? What a bizarre comparison. S.L. was a writer and investigative journalist. What on earth has that to do with being a school teacher?

Confused again?
10:30 April 15, 2011 by Jes
Rick Methven , ( or is it Lick mittröven? )

the joke is on you dear . The fool is the one who thinks that " tattoo" is the only correct spelling of the word " tattau" .
12:57 April 15, 2011 by Rick Methven
@cogito Stig Larsson's main character was Lisbeth Salander who had tattoos and other adornments that made her look an 'outsider

@Jes as the language of this forum is English the spelling id tattoo your version of tattau is German, so why not go to thelocal.de
13:01 April 15, 2011 by cogito
@Rick M. who wrote "Stig Larsson has done an excellent job in bunking the concept ..."

"Bunking?" As the Local's self-appointed language police you should be aware that the word is "debunking." "
15:32 April 15, 2011 by Borilla
The question should be "What kind of teacher is he?" Considering what recent articles in DN have shown about the Swedish educational system, a point which most of us who have taken the time to look would agree with, tattoos or spiky hair should be the least of our worries. He could dress in a grass skirt and wear a bone in his nose if he is an effective teacher. What has Sture, the "local politician", done to improve education?
17:15 April 15, 2011 by zoroastrina
When I attend the events of the deeply admirable radical leftists of Düsseldorf's Antifa Koordinierungskreis, I see much admired "Punker" (I dislike the sound of the English word "punk". Their hair is coloured purple or pink, and some of them are still squatters in slum buildings that they have lovingly restored. They are magnificent non-conformists, not yielding or deferring to the petite bourgeoisie of Germany's largely conformist and xenophobic "Christian" society. I love those anti-fascists. And I hate France's fascistic dress code for Muslim women, by no means all of whom are oppressed. I admire the Muslim women who are donned in colourful headscarves and are not at all oppressed according to my experience. In the summer there is a great deal of nudity here in Germany, e.g. lace tangas protruding visibly from the crevice of their bottoms when they wear hiphuggers. It seems anal erotic and tasteless, but it is their right, I suppose. Girls in American schools allegedly dress that way, too. The politician Sture Grönwall, 70, seems Paleolithic. He is six years younger than I am. (I am still physically very fit, doing 205 press-ups every morning.) Among the translations of the German word "stur" are "bloody-minded" and "bone-headed". One of the people I admire most is Sam Aalto, a great monument to freedom of expression. I bow to him, for he is lovable. Sytfel's and Swedesmith's comments are disgusting.
17:45 April 15, 2011 by cogito
@Rick M. who wrote: "Larsson's main character was Lisbeth Salander who had tattoos and other adornments that made her look an 'outsider"

The multi-tatooed Selander is a computer hacker, not a teacher. Hackers work alone.

You seem as unfamiliar with Larsson's novel as you are with the English language.
11:47 April 16, 2011 by diegoveggie
if i had kids id be proud if they had a teacher like that! he rocks
06:43 April 20, 2011 by CokoSwede
Not everyone in Sweden is a Christian, like you, or a Muslim. If I were a business holder, I would like to know your personal views on freedom of choice in this respect before hiring you, because I would not -in your own words- "want to hire someone who expresses your conservative, American viewpoints"
18:57 April 22, 2011 by black boy
if that teacher was black there is no way in hell he would be able to stay
02:56 April 23, 2011 by NigelF
I think that the key question is : Is his dress style preventing students from learning well? If not, then fine. Keep him. If so then ...

The thing is, if I were a student and my teacher walked in with something offensive like a swastika on his shirt, then I would have difficulty concentrating and hence learning.

However I think that Aalto is not too bad and might even be a fun teacher to have.
23:32 April 28, 2011 by jamesblish
Can't believe this was even brought up. Someone needs to get their a** out of the Twilight Zone.
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