A Japanese School Is Actually Making Some Students Dye Their Hair, And It’s Led To A Lawsuit – Forbes
Japan has a reputation as being a society that demands conformity: All college graduates seeking jobs should wear dark suits to job interviews, women are expected to cover their mouths when laughing and pour the beer at company gatherings. Many schools require students to wear the same uniforms, shoes and have haircuts that meet school regulations. One school in Osaka Prefecture is being sued for taking it too far.
In Osaka Prefecture, an 18-year-old girl is suing her public school for mental anguish and other damages. She alleges she was forced her to repeatedly dye her naturally brown hair the standard Japanese black, suffering mental and physical damage as a result. The third-year student is suing for roughly 2.2 million yen ($19,350) in compensation at the Osaka District Court, where opening arguments were heard on October 27.
According to the lawsuit and Japanese media reports, the student entered Osaka Prefectural Kaifukan High School in Habikino City in 2015. Shortly after, she was asked to dye her brown hair black every one or two weeks. From the second term she was ordered to dye her hair every four days. The effects of the repeated dying on her hair were damage to her scalp and hair, rashes and mental anguish.
The student says she had also been forced to dye her hair black in junior high school.
The suit also states that — to add insult to injury — a school teacher taunted her by asking: “Is your hair brown because you’re living in a single mother household?” In Japan, single mothers face tremendous discrimination and nearly half of single-mother households live in poverty.
In September 2016, a teacher allegedly told the girl, “If you don’t dye your hair black then don’t bother to come back, and don’t come to school.” The student has not been back to school since. In April, the school blacked out her name from its school rolls and told others that she had dropped out. According to one media report, the school told her attorney, “Even if we had a blond-haired foreign exchange student, we’d force them to dye their hair black.”
School representatives said they couldn’t discuss the case because it was in court.
Many schools in Japan see dyed hair, especially chapatsu, as an act of rebellion. In Tokyo, nearly 60% of the public schools require students prove that their hair is its natural color or not permed. Some schools even require childhood photos as proof that hair doesn’t differ from the norm. Parents are required to carefully note the precise hair color — for example, “acorn colored,” or whether it’s “frizzy” or “curly.” Some schools even ban ponytails.
There is some hope that the student will win her case. In March of 2015, a Kobe District court ruled against a supermarket that was sued for ordering a high school student working there part-time to dye her hair black — even though that was not her natural hair color. The court stated, “It is highly inappropriate for [the supermarket] to negate her natural physical features” and awarded the girl 330,000 yen ($2,934) in damages for mental suffering.