Back in 2017, news outlets and Japanese social media was set ablaze with the news of a girl from Osaka being forcibly made by her school to dye her hair black despite having a naturally brown hair color. The girl was said to have developed a rash and scalp pain due to repeated dyeing, as the school’s officials deemed her hair “not black enough”.

A report by The Mainichi states that after the girl enrolled in the prefecture-run school in 2015, school officials also told her that she need not to come to school if she wasn’t going to dye her hair black. This statement then drove her to stop attending classes, to which the school responded by excluding her from the class register and removing her seat in the classroom.

Considering the effects that the school’s strict hair color rules caused her, the now 21-year-old woman sued the Osaka prefectural government in 2017 for 2.2 million yen ($20,700) in damages.

Over three years later, the District Court of Osaka announced their decision on the matter. It ruled that the school’s instructions on hair dyeing were appropriate, with presiding judge Noriko Yokota stating, “It cannot be said that there was coerced dyeing of the hair.”

The court, however, recognized that it was illegal for the school to remove the woman from the class register and ordered the Osaka prefectural government to pay 330,000 yen (~$3,109) in compensation, making up less than a fifth of the amount that the woman had originally sued for. According to a report by Yahoo! News Japan, her representative is said to be considering an appeal, stating “The fact-finding process was careless; there was no mention of the childhood photos we submitted and the teachers’ testimonies were trusted without any corroboration.”

In response to the ruling, the principal of the school said, “Although we have given appropriate guidance, we regret once again that this lawsuit has been filed. We have not changed our standard on dyeing hair black (even after the lawsuit), but we have been endeavoring to provide guidance that students and their guardians can understand.”

Japan’s “shady school rules”

The woman’s plight raised awareness for excessively strict and outdated rules policing students’ appearance that’s still being observed in many schools across Japan. When the issue in Osaka first became viral, people took to Twitter to share similar experiences they had at their schools, proving that the issue went beyond just hair color. One user talked about “monthly dress code inspections” where girls had to lift up their shirts to show the colors of their camisoles, and another mentioned that they weren’t even allowed to use something as simple as sunscreen.

This also gave way to a petition being opened through, called “#What's Wrong With My Hair? Stop Telling Students To Dye Their Hair Black”, which proceeded to garner over 22,000 signatures.

In a 2019 update posted on the petition’s webpage, the organizers stated that they brought the signatures to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education as a means for an appeal. As a result, they happily reported that the Board of Education has made it known that forced hair dyeing is no longer allowed in all metropolitan middle schools and high schools in Tokyo.

By - Jen Laforteza.