School “Hair Police” lose case in Osaka (kinda): Court awards the victim a pittance, but rules that enforced hair coloring has “reasonable and legitimate educational purpose”. Another setback for Visible Minorities.

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Hi Blog. Debito.org has talked about Japan’s “Hair Police” before, where students of diverse backgrounds or phenotypical differences (including Wajin) are forced to dye and straighten their naturally non-black wavy hair to conform to Japanese Junior High and High School rules. (See for example here, here, and here.). I wrote a column on it in the Japan Times (version without paywall here) more than a decade ago. And some students have even been officially bullied (forced to have their hair cut by teachers in front of other students in a court case now pending) not only by students, but by teachers and administrators. This blog post focuses on a court case that just got handed down in the Osaka District Court on Feb. 16, where a student was essentially expelled from her school for not dyeing her naturally-brown hair.

On the face of it, the verdict looks like a victory for Japan’s Visible Minorities, with the Court awarding some damages to the plaintiff. However, these damages (330,000 JPY, or about 3000 USD) are minuscule, and will not cover the out-of-pocket costs of going to court in the first place (in discrimination cases, they rarely if ever do). But worse is that the Court in effect legitimizes these awful school rules by finding that hair policing has, “a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose, and so maintaining student discipline is within the discretion of the school“.

So in terms of legal precedent, this says that rules that enable teachers to scrutinize student hair follicles, and bully kids who don’t have what they consider to be “normal” coloration, are just an acceptable part of Japanese education.

Bullying is rife in Japanese education, but when it’s ignored (or even perpetuated) by officialdom, this feeling of powerlessness will leave children (particularly those NJ children with diverse physical features targeted for “standing out“) and their families scarred for life.  (As discussed at length in book “Embedded Racism“, pg. 154-5.)  Visible Minorities and their families thinking of putting their kids in Japanese Secondary Education should think very hard in advance about what sorts of trauma they would be putting them through (not to mention exposing their children to dangerous chemicals in hair dyes).

Thus the Osaka Court has done nothing less than approve of institutionalized bullying and enforced conformity with a racialized bent. The natural attributes of Visible Minorities should be celebrated, not treated as aberrations, singled out in public, and suppressed. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

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National
Girl wins suit against Osaka Prefecture over school telling her to dye hair black
SoraNews24/Japan Today, Feb. 18, 2021
By Casey Baseel, courtesy of JDG
https://japantoday.com/category/national/girl-wins-suit-against-osaka-prefecture-over-school-telling-her-to-dye-hair-black

Ostensibly, school dress codes are supposed to be about eliminating distractions, and so it’s common for Japanese schools to prohibit students from dying their hair. However, problems can occur if schools rigidly assume that no one dying their hair will always result in everyone having the same hair color.

Though the vast majority of ethnically Japanese people, who make up the vast majority of students at schools in Japan, have naturally black hair, some Japanese people’s hair is instead a dark brown. This can lead to situations where a school tells a brown-haired student that they have to dye their hair black, often predicated by their not believing that the student’s natural hair color is brown, and that they’re trying to get away with dying it.

That was the case for a teen attending Kaifukan Prefectural High School in the town of Habikino, Osaka Prefecture. The girl enrolled in 2015, and was repeatedly told that she had to dye her brown hair black. The girl insisted that brown was her natural hair color, but the school says that three different teachers examined the roots of the girl’s hair and found them to be black, which they took as proof that she had been coloring her hair.

Eventually the girl, who is now 21 years old, claims she was told “If you’re not going to dye your hair black [i.e. back to black, in the school’s opinion], then there’s no need for you to come to school.” Feeling pressured and distressed, the girl did indeed stop attending classes, and the school then removed her name from her class seating chart and student roster.

But instead of seeing the school’s administrators on campus, the woman decided to see them in court, and in 2017 filed a lawsuit over the incident, asking for 2.2 million yen in compensation.

On Tuesday an Osaka district court handed down its ruling, finding neither side to be completely in the right. Presiding judge Noriko Yokota recognized the validity of the school to set and enforce rules relating to coloring hair, saying “Such rules have been established as having a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose, and so maintaining student discipline is within the discretion of the school.”

Yokota also declared “It cannot be said that the school was forcing [the girl] to dye her hair black,” seemingly taking the school’s word that the girl’s roots were black, and that the administrators were only requiring her to return to her natural hair color.

However, the school isn’t getting off completely free. The court also ruled that the administration’s actions after the girl stopped coming to class, such as removing her name from the roster and removing her desk from the classroom, were unacceptable, and has ordered Osaka Prefecture pay damages of 330,000 yen to the woman.

The amount is far less than she had been seeking, and the lack of any legal condemnation for the school insisting her hair should be black is likely to leave the plaintiff less than satisfied, and her lawyer expressed disappointment that the court took at face value the teachers’ assertation that the girl’s roots and natural hair color were black. This was likely a critical point of contention, as certain educational organizations, such as the Tokyo Board of Education, now have policies against pressuring students with naturally non-black hair to dye it black.

Meanwhile, Kaifukan says it has no plans to appeal the decision and attempt to avoid sanction entirely, and the school admits that it could make greater efforts to earn the understanding of students and their guardians regarding school rules. “We have not changed our standard of having students who have dyed their hair return it to black, but this case has been a learning experience, and we will be giving greater thought to how to better guide our students.”

ENDS

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Osaka court orders pref. gov’t to pay $3,100 after student forced to dye hair black
February 17, 2021 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210217/p2a/00m/0na/007000c

OSAKA — The district court here on Feb. 16 ordered the prefectural government to pay 330,000 yen (approx. $3,109) in compensation for mental suffering to a woman who stopped going to a prefecture-run high school after it instructed her to dye her naturally brown hair black.

The now 21-year-old woman had sought some 2.2 million yen ($20,700) from the prefecture.

Presiding Judge Noriko Yokota recognized the appropriateness of Osaka Prefecture Kaifukan Senior High School’s instructions toward students on hair color, saying, “It cannot be said that there was coerced dyeing of the hair,” but pointed out that it was illegal for the school to remove the woman’s name from the school roster when she started missing classes.

“We will respond appropriately after reading the sentence thoroughly,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters.

Kaifukan Senior High School, in the Osaka Prefecture city of Habikino, prohibits students from dyeing or bleaching their hair. The plaintiff in the court case matriculated at Kaifukan in the spring of 2015, and was repeatedly told to dye her hair black. She was even told that she need not come to school if she was not going to dye her hair black, which she said drove her to stop going to school. After she started missing classes, her name was removed from the class roster, and she no longer had a seat in the classroom, which the woman argued was “bullying in the name of student guidance.”

Meanwhile, the prefecture argued that when a teacher was offering guidance to the student, they confirmed that the students’ hair roots were black, meaning that her natural hair color was black. It rebutted the plaintiff’s claims and said that it was merely providing guidance because the student was in violation of a school rule, and that there was nothing illegal about what it had done.

Lawsuits have been fought over “student hair guidance” in the past. In a case in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kumamoto, in which the legality of a school rule that stipulated that all male students at a public junior high school shave their heads was contested, the 1985 Kumamoto District Court’s decision that the rule was “not strikingly irrational” became finalized. In a damage lawsuit in which a female student attending a school run by the Nara Prefecture city of Ikoma in western Japan argued that being forced to dye her hair black was corporal punishment, the Osaka District Court in 2011 dismissed the student’s claim, saying that the school’s actions were “within the range of educational guidance.” The Supreme Court supported the lower courts’ decision.

ENDS

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Japanese version
「黒染め強要」訴訟 大阪府に33万円の賠償命令 地裁判決
毎日新聞 2021/2/16, courtesy of JK
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20210216/k00/00m/040/080000c

生まれつき茶色の髪を黒く染めるよう学校から強要されて不登校になったとして、大阪府羽曳野市の府立懐風館高校に通っていた女性(21)が府に約220万円の慰謝料などを求めた訴訟の判決で、大阪地裁は16日、府側に33万円の賠償を命じた。横田典子裁判長は「黒染めの強要はあったとはいえない」と頭髪指導の妥当性を認めた上で、不登校後に名簿から女性の氏名を削除したことなどを違法と指摘した。

大阪府の吉村洋文知事は記者団の取材に、「判決文をしっかり見た上で、適切に対応したい」と述べた。

同校は校則で、髪の染色や脱色を禁じている。女性は2015年春に入学後、髪を黒く染めるよう再三指導され、「黒染めしないなら学校に来る必要がない」などと言われて不登校に追い込まれたと主張。不登校になった後も、教室に自分の席がなくなったり、名簿から氏名を削除されたりしたとして、「生徒指導の名を借りたいじめだ」と訴えていた。

一方、府側は、教諭が指導した際、女性の髪の根元が黒かったことを確認しており、地毛は黒だと主張。校則に反して茶色に染めていたため指導しただけで、違法性はないと反論していた。

頭髪指導を巡る訴訟は過去にも起きている。熊本県内の公立中で男子生徒を丸刈りとする校則の違法性が争われた訴訟で、熊本地裁(1985年)が「著しく不合理ではない」とした判決が確定。奈良県生駒市立中の女子生徒が黒染めは体罰だとして市に賠償を求めた訴訟では、大阪地裁(11年)が「教育的指導の範囲内」として請求を棄却、最高裁で生徒側敗訴が確定した。【伊藤遥】

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NB: Debito.org Readers have already commented on this case in a separate blog entry.  Click here to see their comments

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6 comments on “School “Hair Police” lose case in Osaka (kinda): Court awards the victim a pittance, but rules that enforced hair coloring has “reasonable and legitimate educational purpose”. Another setback for Visible Minorities.

  • BBC’s take:

    Japan student forced to dye her hair wins compensation
    BBC, Feb 17, 2021, courtesy of Mixed Roots Japan
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56099237

    A woman in Japan has won compensation after teachers repeatedly pressurised her to dye her hair black, causing her to drop out of school.

    The school did not believe her natural hair colour was brown and told her to dye it black.

    It banned her from attending some classes and school trips because “her hair was not dyed black enough”.

    A court ruled the school’s actions were legal but the ex-student should get 330,000 yen ($3,100) in damages.

    The court in Osaka ruled that the prefectural government caused emotional damage to the former student, now 21, by pressing her to dye her hair.

    Schools rules prohibit pupils from “getting their hair permed, coloured, bleached or braided with extensions,” according to the legal case reported in Japanese media.

    In court the defence said that a vice principal checked the teenager’s roots in a “surveying session” and believed it was black, not brown as she claimed.

    In order to maintain the rules against hair dyeing, the school told the student to dye her hair black.

    She was prevented from joining a school trip, her seat in a classroom was removed and her name was erased from a class list because “her hair was not dyed black enough”, the lawsuit added.

    The court sided with the school, agreeing that the rules were legitimate in order to encourage students to focus on their studies.

    But it said the actions left the student depressed and that the school “did not consider the psychological toll” on her.

    Many schools in Japan strictly control pupils’ appearances, even going so far as to dictate the colour of underwear.
    ENDS

    Reply
  • Hair color other than black: exists
    Japanese high school: I’m bouta end this man’s whole career.

    Sorry for this old meme, but I can’t cope with such crap otherwise. I may seriously consider returning to my home country when my child (hair color is brown) comes of age. Might be better than scanning the rulebooks of every potential high school for such bs rules that do absolutely NOTHING to let students concentrate on their studies. Typical 19th century drill think designed to squeeze future factory workers and conscript soldiers into an officially prescribed and therefore by higher-ups desired conformity.

    Reply
  • Since Senaiho has not made an update recently in our cases and with the Osaka hair dyeing judgment in the news recently, I will update the readers here at Debito.org on our case as much as possible.

    Our cases (there are two) are both in the final stages of the court process. We will have a judgment on the bullying case the end of April and a judgment in the case against the city of Yamanashi sometime in the summer (hopefully). I wish I could fill you in some of the details of the court proceedings here at this time, but unfortunately, I can’t because of the pending nature of our cases. Believe me, there will be plenty to report on after our suits are settled whichever way they go, for or against us.

    I am heartened to see that there is quite a bit of interest in the Osaka hair case, and I can only hope our issues receive at least some attention. You will find out all the juicy details here on debito.org soon, believe me. Thank you all again for your continued support and prayers.

    — Happy to be of help. That’s one reason why Debito.org exists.

    Reply
    • Senaiho, I absolutely wish you and your family all the best. I was just going to comment hoping for a better verdict for your daughter!

      Jaocnanoni #2
      Seeing cases like this it really feels that Japanese courts are only here to uphold the status quo. I too am really starting to feel there’s not much else to do to keep my child out of harm’s way. It’s really appalling, “I live in a G-8 country but the best way to protect my child is to get out of here”.

      Reply
  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Hair color policing case should be noted as another sham trial in Japanese court. Court ruling makes no sense. If you say school’s punitive discipline is under the protection of the School Education Law or the Constitution, then, it should protect the school from any wrongdoing derived from initial conduct. Otherwise, you have to reject the holding that school’s subsequent questions are driven from its’ initial discipline of blacking student’s hair color, and set the ruling differently that subsequent punishments are unnecessary, hence unconstitutional. Thus, the school is obligated to pay damages for the student.

    If that’s still not the case, then, what’s the point in claiming/ruling constitutionality of conduct in the first place? What is the compensation all about? Why do you still need to order the compensation when you find in favor of school on constitutionality of ‘hair coloring policing?’ Or why are school representatives so afraid of ‘unconstitutionality,’ if the consequence is likely as minuscule as a petty compensation?

    These are exactly the questions I pose in the court ruling on the landmark Otaru Onsens cases. I see little or no progress in Japanese civil court.

    Reply
  • Looks like Mie-ken of all places is getting with the times:

    West Japan pref. abolishes excessive high school rules on dating, hair, underwear color

    髪形、男女交際、下着の色…三重県立高が「ブラック校則」を廃止

    West Japan pref. abolishes excessive high school rules on dating, hair, underwear color
    June 16, 2021 (Mainichi Japan)

    TSU — Rules at all public high schools in west Japan’s Mie Prefecture pertaining to subjects including hairstyles, dating, and underwear color were all abolished during the current academic year, the Mainichi Shimbun learned from the Mie Prefectural Board of Education on June 15.

    Rules seen to go too far are dubbed “black school rules,” and with more attention being paid to them as a societal problem, it appears schools were forced to rethink them. The education board’s student guidance section explained, “There are school rules that remain like ‘past relics’ out of step with the times. We will seek further changes in the future.”

    According to the education board and others, among the 54 full-time public high schools in the prefecture, there were 24 in the 2019 school year banning undercut haircuts that leave the sides short and top long. All of them had abolished the rules by spring 2021. The primary reason given in forbidding the haircuts was that pupils must “be like high school students, and must not use elaborate techniques.”

    Eighteen schools also cited reasons like “students should be pure, cheerful and upright” to justify prohibiting dating among students, but the rules were abolished from spring this year. In academic 2019, 17 schools also required students to file a document certifying their natural hair’s properties and color, but this practice had also been phased out by spring 2021.

    Additionally, two schools have abolished their respective clothing rules that underwear and shirts under school uniforms should be “flesh-colored, beige, mocha or colors that are less visible under uniforms,” and, “monotone white, grey, navy blue, or black.” If patterns could be seen below a uniform’s surface, students were reportedly warned.

    From academic 2020, the prefectural education board encouraged principals’ associations and individual schools to review school rules at meetings attended by guidance counseling staff.

    Based on the reality of students’ school life and the thoughts of guardians, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology sent out notifications dated June 8 to education boards across the country urging them to review school rules.

    (Japanese original by Yuka Asahina, Tsu Bureau)

    Japanese version
    髪形、男女交際、下着の色…三重県立高が「ブラック校則」を廃止
    毎日新聞 2021/6/15 20:05(最終更新 6/16 11:15) 647文字

     三重県の全ての県立高校で今年度から、髪形や男女交際、下着の色などに関する校則が廃止されたことが15日、県教育委員会などへの取材で明らかになった。行き過ぎた生活指導が「ブラック校則」として、社会問題となる中で、各校も見直しを迫られたとみられている。県教委生徒指導課は「時代にそぐわない『過去の遺物』のような校則も残っている。今後も見直しを求めていく」と説明している。

     県教委などによると、県内の全日制県立高54校のうち、頭の側面を刈り上げて頭頂部を長めに残す髪形「ツーブロック」を禁止する規定を設けていた高校が2019年度は24校あったが、今春までに全校で廃止された。主な禁止の理由は「高校生らしく、技巧をこらしてはならない」というものだった。

     同様に「清く明るく正しくあるべきだ」などとした男女交際に関する規定も18校で今春から廃止。髪の色や髪質などを書き込む「地毛証明」の提出を求めていた高校も19年度は17校あったが、今春からはなくなった。

     このほか、アンダーシャツや下着の色を「肌色やベージュ、モカなどの制服から透けにくい色」または「白やグレー、紺、黒などのモノトーン」と指定した2校も規定を廃止。制服から柄が透けて見えると、注意されていたという。

     県教委は20年から、校長会や各校の生徒指導に関わる教師が集まる会議で校則の見直しを促してきた。文部科学省も児童生徒の実情や保護者の考え方などを踏まえ、校則を見直すよう求める通知を今月8日付で、全国の教育委員会に出している。【朝比奈由佳】

    Reply

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