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Osaka court orders pref. gov't to pay $3,100 after student forced to dye hair black

The building where the Osaka District Court is housed is seen in Osaka's Kita Ward in this file photo taken on Nov. 27, 2020. (Mainichi/Akira Hattori)

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.

    (Japanese original by Haruka Ito, Osaka City News Department)

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