Can you be a teacher with tattoos? Whether or not you can have tattoos and piercings as a teacher will depend on the policies of the school where you work. Policies regarding tattoos and piercings on teachers do not usually vary by grade level; rather, they typically vary by district or by individual school.
We contacted school districts and viewed staff manuals for schools in California, Kansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin to find out more about the common tattoo and piercing policies for teachers.
Many schools do not have strict written policies regarding body modifications. Instead, they may have unofficial preferences or request that teachers follow the student dress code. More conservative schools may disallow tattoos and piercings outright in their staff handbooks.
Of the schools we checked, about 25% had written policies stating that teachers may not have any visible tattoos or piercings other than standard ear piercings. None of the schools said they would require teachers to get their tattoos removed.
For job interviews, it is best to err on the side of caution. Until you know the district’s policy, remove any facial piercings and cover your tattoos.
Can Teachers Have Tattoos? Common Policies
Your contract or the school’s staff handbook will include guidelines for professional dress. If your school or district does not allow tattoos, it may list additional instructions for other types of body modifications. Below are the most common policies our research discovered.
No Visible Tattoos or Piercings
Some schools require that their teachers have absolutely no visible tattoos or piercings. If you have tattoos, you must cover them with clothing, makeup, or bandages. If you have facial piercings, body piercings, or additional ear piercings, you must take them out while on school grounds.
In the course of our research, we found that the following schools are most likely to hold this type of policy:
- Public schools in the rural U.S. (such as Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas)
- Private schools (including religious schools)
- Charter schools (including Montessori schools)
These schools also tend to restrict other aspects of the teacher’s appearance, such as hair color. See our related article for information on which jobs allow alternative hairstyles.
Restricted Tattoos and Piercings
Your district may allow tattoos or piercings, but only under certain conditions. Districts may restrict tattoos based on size, content, or how many you have. Piercings may be restricted by placement and/or number.
One district we contacted in New Mexico said that you only need to cover your tattoos if they are offensive or are perceived as gang-related. Others in South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin said that they allow tattoos as long as they are not offensive, violent, or otherwise inappropriate for students, but do not allow facial piercings or stretched ears.
Follow the Student Dress Code
Your school may not have a separate dress policy for teachers and staff. Some schools simply require their teachers to follow or exceed the student dress code. Student dress codes often prohibit tattoos and certain types of piercings, but again, this will vary by district. (High school dress codes are most likely to include specific provisions regarding tattoos since students of that age may have body modifications.) If the policy is unclear, it is best to speak with your principal or the administration.
No Written Policy
Several of the schools we checked in California, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, and Ohio had no official policies regarding tattoos or piercings on teachers. However, this does not always mean that you can show your tattoos or piercings. Staff handbooks usually require teachers to maintain professional dress and set an appropriate example for students. At many schools, this means keeping all or most body modifications covered, with some exceptions for small tattoos or piercings — like a wrist tattoo or double ear piercings — that will not be seen as a distraction for students.