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Ure: tattoos aren’t for kids

Patrick Parkinson Of the Record staff

Comments made by state Republican Rep. David Ure about the number of students with tattoos at South Summit High School have some kids in Kamas disputing the lawmaker’s claims.

"I went to my wife’s school and saw all these young kids. Go to a football or basketball game and see how many tattoos are on them," Ure said Monday during an interview on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

He cautions kids against tattooing a tribal band around their arm or pretty insect on their tummy.

"Ever seen a drooping butterfly?" Ure asked.

The House of Representatives is debating Ure’s House Bill 227 that would make it a class B misdemeanor for someone to tattoo or pierce a person under 18 years of age.

Though parents must currently provide their permission, South Summit High School Vice Principal Troy Coil agrees with the stiffer penalties the bill imposes on artists who illegally tattoo or pierce juveniles.

"I would support something like that," Coil said.

According to Ure, a person can be charged with a class C misdemeanor and fined $750 for unlawful tattooing or piercing. His bill increases the possible penalty to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

"I’d sooner have a good kick in the butt than I would a tattoo," Ure said. "At least the pain will subside faster."

But Ure’s descriptions of inked up students at South Summit High School have some kids crying foul.

"I don’t know why [Ure] said everyone in Kamas has a tattoo," said 17-year-old Bill Sullivan, a senior at South Summit High. "He said there were dragons and snakes on everyone."

Though a handful of seniors at the school last year had prominent body art, Sullivan could think of just one student currently enrolled at the school with a tattoo.

"It’s not that big of a problem," Sullivan said. "There are other things you could be talking about."

South Summit High School student Emmett Benedict, 17, has had a tattoo since he was 12 years old. His parents allowed him to have an Old English style ‘B’ tattooed on his ankle during a family vacation in Mexico.

"I think it’s pretty stupid," Benedict said about HB 227. "There’s one kid in our whole high school under 18 that has a tattoo and that’s me."

His parents also allowed his brothers to receive tattoos before they turned 18.

"They said as long as it’s little they don’t care," Benedict said.

South Summit High School junior Patrick Leary says Utah schools face weightier matters than tattoos and body piercings.

"I thought it’d be hilarious to come to school with a Sharpie marker and start writing little hearts with ‘mom’ in the middle of them," Leary said.

But Ure’s bill might be necessary in schools in Utah’s larger cities, said South Summit High School junior Josh Hannay, 17.

According to South Summit High School administrator Troy Coil, "there’s a certain responsibility level that goes along with something that’s going to impact you the rest of your life."

"We just take the stance with all students, with hairstyles and everything else, that it can’t distract from the educational opportunity," Coil said.

Tattoos must be covered up during school hours and school-sponsored activities, he added.

"I understand students have rights and especially at this age they want to be independent and make their own decisions," said Coil, who has a 16-year-old son at South Summit High. "But I do think parents have a right to know at least those kinds of things that their children are doing."

He added, "if [my son] went out and got a tattoo or body piercing without me knowing it I wouldn’t be too happy about it."

"The problem with a tattoo is it’s permanent. What if you had a kid put a tattoo on his forehead, on his cheek?" Coil said. "Those major decisions like that should have some parental input."

Meanwhile, Dell Steed, a tattoo artist at Susie M’s Gallery of Fine Tattooing in Salt Lake City, said minors often attempt to get tattooed with parental consent.

"They try all the time," Steed said. "I’ve never had a problem with it because we always check ID."

Kids will even whip out phony identifications to get tattoos, said Sharon Brouse, co-owner of ASI Tattoo in Salt Lake City.

"If they ain’t got ID, they ain’t going to get tattooed," ASI Tattoo co-owner Don Brouse said. "There have been a couple of shops around that don’t ID but they kind of aren’t really in business anymore."


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