A 15-year-old Rhode Island girl is facing misdemeanor charges after police say she gave two of her friends tattoos using a makeshift needle while they were on their high school campus last week. According to Westerly, R.I., police, one of the tattoos was meant to show support for “people with depression, addiction, and thoughts of self-injury or suicide.”
Because it’s against state law to tattoo a minor, a Westerly High School staff member who spotted one of the tattoos reported it to school administrators, police said.
“A student resource officer at the high school was notified Friday that a student at the high school had been giving her friends tattoos using a homemade needle and ink set,” Westerly Police Capt. Shawn Lacey said. “The students were questioned and everyone was open and honest about the incident. Everyone was very cooperative.”
Police said the three girls had been on the quad earlier in the day when the 15-year-old offered to give the others basic tattoos. She tied a sewing needle to a Popsicle stick and used it with ink to create the permanent tattoos on the girls ages 15 and 16.
Lacey said one of the tattoos was a sun and moon combination, and the other was a semicolon. Officials said the mark is a symbol of Project Semicolon, a faith-based nonprofit that supports people with depression, addiction, and thoughts of self-injury or suicide.
Lacey said the police resource officer at the school had no choice but to file charges, because Rhode Island law states that “every person who shall tattoo any minor under the age of 18, except in accordance with subsection (b) for medical purposes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” There is no definition of a valid medical purpose in the statute.
Although the law was intended for commercial tattoo artists and parlors, Lacey made clear that the restrictions also apply to anyone providing tattoos — including 15-year-old girls.
The girl didn’t mean to break a law, he said, but “tattooing without sterilized equipment presents health and safety hazards, besides being a statutory violation.”
The Westerly Police Department is now investigating whether other students at the school have been giving each other homemade tattoos.
All of the girls’ parents were notified, but no further charges are expected.