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Opening arguments begin in case of student forced to dye brown hair black

In this file photo, high school students take a last glance at their notes before a college entrance exam in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward on Feb. 25, 2016. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- The Osaka District Court heard opening arguments on Oct. 27 in the case of an 18-year-old high school student suing the prefecture for some 2.2 million yen in compensation for being forced to dye her naturally brown hair black by her school.

The legal team for the third-year student at the prefectural Kaifukan High School in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, claimed that, "Forcing her to dye her hair black was denying her natural physical features and infringing on her human rights," while representatives for the Osaka Prefectural Government argued that the actions were "lawful." The case is shaping up to be one to define just how far schools are allowed to go in the name of "student guidance."

According to the suit and other sources, the student's hair is naturally a lighter color, and when she entered the school in April 2015, a teacher told her, "You can't come to school with hair that color. Come back when you've dyed it black."

She did dye it black, however, whenever the dye would fade, she would receive a warning, and from the second semester of her second year at the school, she was told to dye her hair once every four days. The student regularly kept around 10 bottles of dye at her home, and she damaged both her scalp and her hair from the repeated dyeing.

Teachers asked the student, "Is your hair brown because you're from a single-mother household?" On at least one occasion, she hyperventilated and collapsed as a teacher reprimanded her, and had to be rushed to the hospital. In September 2016, she was told, "If you don't dye your hair black, then don't bother coming to school," and she has not been back since.

Kaifukan High School does not have rules about hair color, however, in the student regulations distributed upon matriculation, it states "permed, dyed, or bleached hair is prohibited." The school argues that these were the guidelines under which they disciplined the student.

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