Japanese student sues over school’s order to dye hair black – The Guardian

A teenager in Japan has taken local authorities to court after her school told her to dye her hair black or face exclusion.

The 18-year-old, who has naturally brown hair, is seeking 2.2m yen (£14,700) in damages from the Osaka prefectural government in western Japan due to anguish caused by repeated commands to colour her hair black.

The student, who has not been named because she is considered a minor, says multiple applications of dye have damaged her hair and caused rashes on her scalp.

Her mother told teachers before she started attending Kaifukan high school that her daughter had been born with naturally brown hair and so was not breaking a school rule requiring all students to have black hair.

However, teachers instructed the student to dye her hair black or face expulsion, and made her colour it again when it still contained brown tinges, according to Japanese media reports.

School staff told her mother they would even ask foreign exchange students with blond hair to comply, according to Kyodo News.

The student has not attended classes since September last year and says she is suffering from pain and irritation caused by the hair dye.

The prefectural government has asked the court to reject the claim.

The case has drawn attention to the strict dress codes imposed by many schools in Japan, from directions on hair colour to bans on makeup and jewellery and the requirement that students’ skirts be of a certain length.

This year a survey of high schools in Tokyo found that almost 60% asked students with lighter hair for proof that it was naturally that colour. Ninety of the 170 schools surveyed by the Asahi newspaper said they asked students to provide photographs of themselves taken when they were infants or attending junior school to prove they had not coloured their hair.

Masahiko Takahashi, Kaifukan’s headteacher, declined to comment on the case but acknowledged that the school also prohibited students from colouring or bleaching their hair. He did not say whether dyeing brown hair black was a breach of that rule.