Tattoo artist Walter Smith says parents voiced concerns that he's promoting 'alternative lifestyle'

CLEARWATER, Fla - For the past two years, Walter Smith has attended the Great American Teach-in at his daughter's Clearwater middle school.

This year, however, the tattoo artist was told he can't come to Clearwater Fundamental Middle School because some parents feel he is 'promoting an alternative lifestyle.'

"No matter where you go, people say, 'Well, your a tattoo artist, you can't be good,'" said Smith.

Smith has been tattooing and piercing clients since 1997.  He is licensed in the State of Florida and regularly passes sterilization checks at his tattoo parlor.

In an email sent to Smith on October 29, the principal, who admits to having tattoos and piercings himself, says his decision is not 'personal' but 'politically correct.'

"The parents are closed-minded and don't want their kids to know these things," Smith said.

Smith told ABC Action News his message in the classroom is one of discouragement when it comes to getting tattoos or piercing before the age of eighteen.

He also tries to school the students on how to properly get a tattoo or piercing.  Smith points to many young kids he meets that have contracted infections after trying to tattoo or pierce themselves.

"Teenagers are going to go out and do what they want and I'd rather educate them to make a wise decision.  Do it in the proper way instead of taking a sewing needle and shoving it through your belly button," he explained.

Smith says he also talks to the students about how tattoos and piercings are similar to surgical procedures.  Smith says he talks about the importance of sterilization because diseases like Hepatitis and HIV can be spread through unclean needles.

Smith believes his career has been stigmatized for years. He says he is not promoting an alternative lifestyle nor does he lead an alternative lifestyle.

"This is an art. This is how I make a living," he said.

Smith, who has clients just like lawyers and doctors, wants the principal to reverse his decision.

The Great American Teach-in 2012 takes place on November 15.

ABC Action News did reach out to the district for comment.  A spokesperson told us they stand behind the principal's decision.

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