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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.
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
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.”
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
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.
「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
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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