Given how filled Japanese entertainment media is with stories of idyllic teenage romances, you’d be forgiven for assuming that love is in the air whenever class is in session. The irony, though, is that it’s not uncommon for Japanese schools to have rules specifically prohibiting their students from having any sort of romantic life, under the logic that they should be focused on their studies and school-sanctioned extracurricular activities.
To clarify, these aren’t just rules against students making out in the band room after class or holding hands in the hall. Schools with no-romance rules place full bans on students dating, including their time off-campus.
Of course, young love has never been all that interested in the decrees of adult authority, and some students at no-romance schools develop feelings for one another anyway and date in secret. Sometimes, though, they get found out, which is what happened with two third-year students at Horikoshi High School, a private school in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward, in the fall of 2019.
A teacher learned of their relationship in late November, which the pair admitted to after questioning. Horikoshi’s student handbook expressly prohibits students from dating, and so the school’s principal advised the girl, and presumably the boy as well, to “voluntarily withdraw” from the school.
The highest authority in the school advising a student to voluntarily drop out sounds an awful lot like threatening them with expulsion, and the even more negative stigma that goes along with it. So the girl dropped out, even though at that point she was only a few months away from graduation (Japanese high school lasts three years).
However, the time since has done nothing to bring her around to the Horikoshi’s way of thinking, and she’s now suing the school for what she says was an abuse of its power. At the time of the incident, she would have been 17 or 18, and she asserts that she suffered significant psychological distress as a result of the school’s actions. As compensation, she’s seeking 3.7 million yen in damages from Horikoshi Gakuen, the managing entity of Horikoshi High School.
Opening statements were made in Tokyo district court on Feb 3, with Horikoshi stating its intent to fight the lawsuit. It’s worth noting that the trial is unlikely to chip away at the no-dating policy itself that’s in place at Horikoshi and other schools that share its philosophy, as the former student’s core legal complaint is not that the rule itself is unfair, but that the de facto punishment she was handed down for it was overly severe.
Sources: NHK News Web, Shizuoka Shimbun SBS
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