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

The Local/rm
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School board defends tattooed teacher deemed 'too cool' for school

The school board in Skövde in western Sweden has backed local teacher Sam Aalto after he was criticised by a local politician, who argued that his surfeit tattoos and spiky hair set a bad example to students.


"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.

“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.


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