Teacher Tattoos, Ethics Enforcement & Petition Signature Removal 

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Bad Ink
A new dress code for teachers in the Ogden School District that prohibits visible tattoos has led to disciplinary actions against at least one current teacher, who has a tattoo tribute to his wife and children on one of his forearms. The teacher, Mark Johnson, who has taught English for 15 years at Ogden High, told the Standard-Examiner he opposes the ban because it is “keeping the stigma of tattooed people alive.” The district contends that the tattoo ban is part of an overall effort to have teachers dress more professionally and dovetails with requirements for things like collared shirts for men. However, considering that attitudes towards tattoos have changed dramatically over the past decade and many 20-somethings have well-inked skin, the ban will only serve as one more obstacle to recruiting teachers. Isn’t Utah’s low pay for teachers enough of a challenge?

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Baby Step
It appears that, at least in some form, the Legislature will have stricter ethical standards next year, including an independent ethics commission. Yes, commissioners will be appointed by the Legislature, a flaw that supporters of an ethics initiative say nullifies the independence. But with a formula that seats three retired judges and two former legislators serving as the commissioners, the potential exists for actual enforcement of ethics rules, depending, of course, on who gets appointed. At the very least, it is proof that the threat of an ethics ballot initiative is forcing legislators to deal with ethics internally, something they have not done very well in the past.

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One-Sided Overtime
Unless Gov. Gary Herbert vetoes House Bill 275, people can now have their names removed from initiative petitions up to a month after the deadline for collecting signatures. The change defies logic. After all, people cannot call and have their name added to the petition after the deadline, so why should they be able to remove it? Signing a petition is a civic duty not unlike voting—and, just as voters cannot go to the county clerk and ask for their votes to be changed weeks after elections, they should not be able to remove their signatures. Oh, and one more thing: People who signed a petition and then decided they oppose it can still vote it down at the polls. That’s the messy nature of democracy, a word that far too often is considered foul among legislators.

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Josh Loftin

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