A trainee teacher claims she was sent home on the first day of her new job because she's covered in tattoos.
Charlotte Tumilty said St John Vianney's Primary School in Hartlepool told her the body art on her hands, neck and feet was unacceptable.
She was sent away and told she could only return once her tatts had been covered up – which the mum-of-two says is impossible.
The 26-year-old is currently on a level two teacher training course at Hartlepool College of Further Education, and was due to work at the school twice a week for a year as a teaching assistant.
She has a 'full sleeve' of tattoos on her arms and legs, smaller inkings on her fingers, hands, back and chest and an eye emblem on her neck.
But although staff could see her body art during her interview at the Catholic school, it wasn't commented on.
She then went to the school on Monday, and spent around £25 on a new outfit, ensuring her arms were covered.
Charlotte explained to her local paper: "They showed me to the class I was working in. But a woman asked to speak to me in the office and said, 'What we need to discuss is you can still see a bit of your neck tattoo peaking out of your top'.
"I suggested wearing a higher-necked top. The woman said, 'That's not the point, it's a strictly Catholic school and tattoos are forbidden'.
"She said they do have teachers with tattoos, but they cover them up. I said 'Yes, I have covered mine up', but the woman said, 'To be honest, I don't think it's appropriate'.
"She then suggested I might be able to uses plasters and bandages to cover them up. I'd look ridiculous."
Charlotte added: "It ticks me off. They prejudiced me because they could see a few tattoos."
However, St John Vianney's deputy headteacher Martin Boagey disputes Charlotte's account and insists she was just 'politely asked' to cover up her tattoos.
He said: "The school expects all members of staff to project a professional image and we have a code of conduct, part of which requires members of staff with tattoos to cover them up.
"We do have members of staff with tattoos, and they are happy to abide by the code of conduct.
"On her arrival at school to take up her placement, Charlotte Tumilty was informed of the school's code of conduct.
"She was politely asked to consider how best to cover up her tattoos and it was suggested that she should.
"At no point was she ever told that she could not work In the school.
"The school regularly offers placements to students to help them develop their careers, and to date dozens have been welcomed and supported."
Union officials would like a 'balance' between the right of the individual and the needs of organisations when it comes to tattoos.
Mike Hill of Unison, which supports teaching assistants, said: "The unions recognise that most workplaces have dress codes, and that includes such dress codes which would accommodate the covering up of tattoos.
"Unions will stand by anybody who is subject to disciplinary action or discrimination as a consequence of them having tattoos.
"But we will also encourage a strike of balance between the needs of the organisation and the individual's choice."
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