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Girl wins suit against Osaka Prefecture over school telling her to dye hair black

55 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Ostensibly, school dress codes are supposed to be about eliminating distractions, and so it’s common for Japanese schools to prohibit students from dying their hair. However, problems can occur if schools rigidly assume that no one dying their hair will always result in everyone having the same hair color.

Though the vast majority of ethnically Japanese people, who make up the vast majority of students at schools in Japan, have naturally black hair, some Japanese people’s hair is instead a dark brown. This can lead to situations where a school tells a brown-haired student that they have to dye their hair black, often predicated by their not believing that the student’s natural hair color is brown, and that they’re trying to get away with dying it.

That was the case for a teen attending Kaifukan Prefectural High School in the town of Habikino, Osaka Prefecture. The girl enrolled in 2015, and was repeatedly told that she had to dye her brown hair black. The girl insisted that brown was her natural hair color, but the school says that three different teachers examined the roots of the girl’s hair and found them to be black, which they took as proof that she had been coloring her hair.

Eventually the girl, who is now 21 years old, claims she was told “If you’re not going to dye your hair black [i.e. back to black, in the school’s opinion], then there’s no need for you to come to school.” Feeling pressured and distressed, the girl did indeed stop attending classes, and the school then removed her name from her class seating chart and student roster.

But instead of seeing the school’s administrators on campus, the woman decided to see them in court, and in 2017 filed a lawsuit over the incident, asking for 2.2 million yen in compensation.

On Tuesday an Osaka district court handed down its ruling, finding neither side to be completely in the right. Presiding judge Noriko Yokota recognized the validity of the school to set and enforce rules relating to coloring hair, saying “Such rules have been established as having a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose, and so maintaining student discipline is within the discretion of the school.”

Yokota also declared “It cannot be said that the school was forcing [the girl] to dye her hair black,” seemingly taking the school’s word that the girl’s roots were black, and that the administrators were only requiring her to return to her natural hair color.

However, the school isn’t getting off completely free. The court also ruled that the administration’s actions after the girl stopped coming to class, such as removing her name from the roster and removing her desk from the classroom, were unacceptable, and has ordered Osaka Prefecture pay damages of 330,000 yen to the woman.

The amount is far less than she had been seeking, and the lack of any legal condemnation for the school insisting her hair should be black is likely to leave the plaintiff less than satisfied, and her lawyer expressed disappointment that the court took at face value the teachers’ assertation that the girl’s roots and natural hair color were black. This was likely a critical point of contention, as certain educational organizations, such as the Tokyo Board of Education, now have policies against pressuring students with naturally non-black hair to dye it black.

Meanwhile, Kaifukan says it has no plans to appeal the decision and attempt to avoid sanction entirely, and the school admits that it could make greater efforts to earn the understanding of students and their guardians regarding school rules. “We have not changed our standard of having students who have dyed their hair return it to black, but this case has been a learning experience, and we will be giving greater thought to how to better guide our students.”

*Sources: Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko, *NHK News Web

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese middle school criticized for pulling out girls’ bra straps to check their color

-- Dumb Japanese school dress codes — Coronavirus winter edition

-- Tokyo public schools will stop forcing students with non-black hair to dye it, official promises

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

55 Comments
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fine if no hair coloring is allowed thats the schools rules, but to force anybody to dye their natural dark brown hair color, black, for the sake of conformity is just discrimination, what next skin color eye color

26 ( +28 / -2 )

Good on her.

What is the obsession with geriatric Japanese men (especially politicians) dying their hair jet black, and making rules so even kids with natural brown colour, have to follow suit? Weird and embarassing.

Embrace your natural self, kids!

24 ( +28 / -4 )

This should not end like this. Assuming that the girl still has naturally dark brown hair then it is very easy to prove that the school was wrong and should be found guilty on appeal with the teachers involved being named.

20 ( +21 / -1 )

Presiding judge Noriko Yokota recognized the validity of the school to set and enforce rules relating to coloring hair, saying “Such rules have been established as having a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose, and so maintaining student discipline is within the discretion of the school.”

Rules on making sure hair is colored black is neither reasonable or legitimate. And has not educational purpose whatsoever. Sounds like the teachers and the school were being bullies. And here, I thought Japan was all in on the anti-bullying campaign.

Sometimes I wonder how people in a position of authority and power got to where they are. Bunch of .... (can't say what I want to say, least I get censured of have my post removed. )

19 ( +22 / -3 )

The whole process and court was a complete joke. The girl didn't win anything, if you read the article, except some pocket money. The winner was the "school" actually who receive no penalty what so ever, but even encouragement from the saw called judge (judges here are complete clowns btw)

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Growing up in Japan sounds like a real hoot!

15 ( +15 / -0 )

On my daughter's first day at high school, after the Entrance Ceremony, students and their parents gathered in their respective classrooms and the form teacher recited a list of school rules, which included no dyed hair and no permed hair.

At the end of the meeting I had a quiet word with the teacher, informing her that my daughter's hair colour and lack of straightness (not exactly curls, but heading that way) were natural and that she would not be either dying it nor straightening it in order to 'conform'.

We had no problems over hair after that.

I wonder where the Osaka girl's parents were during her problems with the school.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

 if her hair WAS naturally brown (which it wasn't) 

We don't know that it wasn't.

Some Japanese have naturally brown hair.

I know several Japanese people with black roots and naturally brown locks.

Being out in the sun, swimming in chlorinated water, etc., lightens it as it grows.

Look at the surfers, diving instructors, kayak instructors, etc., etc., in Okinawa and Ogasawara. Their hair grows lighter as their skin grows darker from all the time they spend under the sun.

When I was at school in the UK I used to have fun dying my naturally mousey hair - blonde, more blonde, red. The only time the teachers commented on it was when they would remind me it was time to touch up the roots.

The ever-changing colour of my hair never affected my grades, so the claim that no-dyeing-allowed rules serve a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose is so much poppycock.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

3 teachers examined her hair roots??

That's just creepy....

12 ( +12 / -0 )

One wonders whether the girl tried to arrange some kind of expert examination of her hair for submission to the court, and if not, why.

Let's be fair to the school: Just because she's a plaintiff doesn't mean she can't have overstated her case. It's not impossible that the school is correct that it's black at the roots but she thought she could get away with a "natural brown" color.

Yeah, great idea. Lets force every kid with brown or blonde hair (including, I should add, both of my own children) to subject themselves to some kind of expert examination before a court of law every time they are asked to dye their hair black with the threat of expulsion if they fail to comply.

Perfect way to run an education system.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Unless I missed something, I don't understand why the girl's attorney did not present a stack of affidavits/certifications from medical experts confirming that her hair was actually brown and it was not dyed. I would have thought her case would have been a slam dunk.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Well the girl lost and lost. They messed her future over BS rules, as for a Japanese, being a school drop out is a red mark on the resume that stays all life. Is it the purpose of public education to destroy every kid not doing the choregraphy at 100% like a circus animal ?

Courts approve that. And the next minute, you get officials saying "How come so many young people kill themselves ? ".

9 ( +9 / -0 )

That was the case for a teen attending Kaifukan Prefectural High School in the town of Habikino, Osaka Prefecture. The girl enrolled in 2015, and was repeatedly told that she had to dye her brown hair black.

Japanese bureaucracy is a master class in exaggerating issues of zero consequence while diverting attention from issues of crippling impact ( childhood neglect/predatory part time employment ).

8 ( +8 / -0 )

“Such rules have been established as having a reasonable and legitimate educational purpose...”

Say what?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Congratulations! She deserved it!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Sad all round, even though she "won"" she lost, perhaps a tiny winy victory.

Oh and she should have sued for Y200MILLION to put an end the this kind of BS in J-indoctrination sorry I meant education......

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Assuming that the girl still has naturally dark brown hair

That's the big question, and this article and the court case doesn't seem to have answered it;

What is this girl's natural hair colour? Which attorney is the onus on to prove it either way?

Also the judge claimed that “It cannot be said that the school was forcing [the girl] to dye her hair black,”, yet agrees that they left her with no other way to attend school unless she did so. Sounds quite forceful to me.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Busy and totally exhausted with their cosmetic, beauty and fashion issues they hopefully also find some minutes to do their job and teach some subjects. lol

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The spelling mistake is perfect

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Pff. Nail standing out stuff again. I was worried about my kids, but they went to a Lutheran JHS and HS (no international schools here, town's too small) and there was no problem. Parents, especially those in big cities, need to do their homework before enrolling their kids to allow both sides to anticipate any potential areas of friction. JHS and HS in Japan are a commodity: you can choose that which best suits you.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

@Mr Kipling Today 05:42 pm JST

Private high school had a rule. Girl attends said school voluntarily agreeing to the rules.

One of many wrinkles is - did she? As Cleo's 05:11 pm JST points out, it's more likely unpleasantries like onerous rules were not detailed at the interview or another place ("contract negotiation" phase), but after she was enrolled (the contract was "signed") and it is sufficiently late it will be rather unpractical to back out.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

“If you’re not going to dye your hair black [i.e. back to black, in the school’s opinion], then there’s no need for you to come to school.” Feeling pressured and distressed, the girl did indeed stop attending classes

So did she go to another school? was she home taught? and saying there is no need to go back to school is blackmail.

The girl enrolled in 2015, and was repeatedly told that she had to dye her brown hair black. 

I think the school has lost focus on what a school should be doing, and that is teaching kids! not bothering about what colour it should be. i can understand the basic rule, as some kids will dye there hair red, blue or pink just to be different, so long as its natural that should be ok.

but the school says that three different teachers examined the roots of the girl’s hair and found them to be black,

ar, so, these teachers are qulified hairdressers now? no, they are teachers, they are NOT qualified to make comments on hair. its only there biased opinion.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

As we grow older our hair usually gets darker

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The court could have hired an expert witness to determine if the girl’s hair was dyed or not.

The court doesn't hire and pay for expert witnesses. The attorneys do and their clients have to pay for their opinions. Often the testimony of an expert witness, and any tests conducted to support their testimony, are prohibitively expensive and beyond the means of many clients. This is a significant problem in civil cases all over the world.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just because she won a settlement does not mean she "won" the lawsuit. This is clickbait!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One of my nieces went through this kind of problem in Saitama (about 20 years ago). First she was accused of dyeing her hair brown. When it was established that was her natural color, she was asked to dye it black. She refused. Her parents backed her up, and the school backed down. But it caused her a lot of anguish and she stayed off school for some time. (She's doing fine now.)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ok, so the girl didn't get her full rights since the court believed the three teachers that examined her hair. How impartial is that? The plaintiffs needed an independant official expert oppinion on her hair. That would've been an easy win (if the hair wasn't dyed after all). The damages amount is ridiculously low compared to what the student suffered.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This really hit home, one of my kids faced the same BS until her angry mother put an end to it. I could NOT get involved because we all know what will happen!!! the teacher finally backed off and when I finally met him at last I gave him my final word.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Now, if her hair WAS naturally brown (which it wasn't) this would and should be very different.

and how do you know that, because the school said so, girl stated her hair was naturally dark brown, Tokyo Board of Education, now have policies against pressuring students with naturally non-black hair to dye it black.

so the school now really has no grounds to further force future non black hair children to dye their hair black

3 ( +3 / -0 )

this didn't stop anything and schools can go on pretending everyone has black hair in the most dystopian manner possible

3 ( +3 / -0 )

also court maintains the duplicity of no dying hair allowed but we're going to dye your hair

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Unless I missed something, I don't understand why the girl's attorney did not present a stack of affidavits/certifications from medical experts confirming that her hair was actually brown and it was not dyed. I would have thought her case would have been a slam dunk.

But she should not have to present a stack of affidavits/certifications from medical experts confirming that her hair was actually brown and it was not dyed. It should never have been an issue in the first place.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The court could have hired an expert witness to determine if the girl’s hair was dyed or not.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just a disclaimer: I really think hair regs are Bull. If we must have hair regs, I'll say the hair reg should be on the lines of

I would say that hair coloring is OK as long as it's not unnatural, i.e. green, pink, purple, or exaggerated, i.e. a Japanese student with platinum blond hair.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

To attain an education, is dependent on teaching professionals inspecting student’s hair follicles to ascertain whether they emerge black or brown, or vice versa, and if conflict ensues disagreement the authority to interpret is a matter judicial court system?

This is beyond illogical absurdity.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One of our daughters had the same issue. I pointed to my hair and asked if they new anything about genetics.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What will the school system courts do when more and more kids star showing up BLOND and BROWN haired, are they going to shut it down?? May be that's what needs to happen. SICKING.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not exactly a "win"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

She should move the decimal point over to the right a couple of spots on her asking price. A child's education being halted to no fault of their own is worth a hell of a lot more than $20K, potentially...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

her present hair color or her hair color as a child should be enough to establish preponderance of evidence.

As a small child my hair was very pale blonde. From early puberty it gradually turned darker until in my twenties it was nondescript mouse. I hated it, so I dyed it a variety of colours. Now it's gone back the other way and is natural blonde again, a different shade to when I was a child.

Hair colour as a child is no indicator of hair colour as a teenager or adult.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unless the school had photographed the hair roots and they are indisputably black in the captures

It really doesn't matter (and is no business of the school's) what colour her roots were. As I pointed out higher up the thread, it's quite common for Japanese people with naturally jet-black hair to end up with black roots and lighter locks, if they spend a lot of time in the sun/sea/swimming pool.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Though the vast majority of ethnically Japanese people, who make up the vast majority of students at schools in Japan, have naturally black hair, some Japanese people’s hair is instead a dark brown. This can lead to situations where a school tells a brown-haired student that they have to dye their hair black, often predicated by their not believing that the student’s natural hair color is brown, and that they’re trying to get away with dying it.

The school probably knew perfectly well that her natural hair color was brown.

I would'nt be suprised if the school interrogated her, accusing her of lying of dying her hair brown.

Actually, I dated a lady many years ago in Tokyo, and she had beautiful natural brown hair. I was sad when she emigrated to Australia.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I'm glad she won.

This needs to change, long overdue. We are a better country then this. What message are we sending to our kids, to people coming to Japan, who want to be part of this country.

Please fix this.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@wtfjapanFeb. 18 11:43 pm JST

how do you know that, because the school said so, girl stated her hair was naturally dark brown.

Given the presently available information, the only reason we have to believe the hair was brown is because the girl said so. Her teachers say different and let's face it there's a credibility gap between any teacher and a student, plus there were several of them. There's no sign she was able to submit any expert or other evidence her natural hair color is brown rather than black as asserted by her teachers - she doesn't need evidence at the time of her cutting, her present hair color or her hair color as a child should be enough to establish preponderance of evidence.

Further, her chosen point of contention is a hint not in her favor.

Most people don't care about how they won their court case. They just want tell their lawyers to find some way for them to win so they declare victory, get a payout and recover court costs. If girl's hair is provably brown, then she doesn't have to get into thickets like the constitutionality of hair regs. She just needs to say the regulations were misapplied in her particular case, and it has caused her great grief.

It's much more likely the court will invalidate a single, concrete application of an abstract act, or secondarily to read down the act (example: School rules that mandate black hair is not to be interpreted as binding on those with other natural hair colors) than get into the more contentious area of invalidating the entire abstract act.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

StrangerlandToday  04:42 am JST

Unless I missed something, I don't understand why the girl's attorney did not present a stack of affidavits/certifications from medical experts confirming that her hair was actually brown and it was not dyed. I would have thought her case would have been a slam dunk.

They probably would have had to get someone to examine it right at the time when she was removed. As it appears her lawsuit was started well after the fact, it's very possible she didn't get examinations of her hair done at the time. This may be why no such specialists were called (if they indeed weren't, which I haven't checked).

Hair color under normal conditions, at least for Japanese people, does not change between 15 and 21 years of age. Supporting evidence that her natural hair color is brown in 2020/2021 would be just as valid as if done in 2015. Hair color "may" change during that period for some people, ie; caucasians with blonde/dirty blonde hair.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I agree, but we're talking a legal case here. As the claim of the school was that her hair was dyed at the point when they examined it, she would need to prove it wasn't dyed - at that point. 

I think you have this backwards. Since the school was the one who was making the accusation, the burden of proof falls in them. The school should have to prove her hair was dyed, not her having to prove it wasn’t.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Since the school was the one who was making the accusation, the burden of proof falls in them.

The school were the defendants. The accusation (of impropriety) was by the girl.

Nevertheless, it doesn't matter who was making the accusation. The question hinges on whether her hair was dyed when they examined it, this is true regardless of who was the accuser.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But she should not have to present a stack of affidavits/certifications from medical experts confirming that her hair was actually brown and it was not dyed. It should never have been an issue in the first place.

You're arguing ideal over reality. The ideal is that it should never have been an issue in the first place. The reality is that, justifiably or not, it became an issue. Therefore, in dealing with the reality of the situation it would seem that proving the girl's hair was not dyed would be a valid strategy in the lawsuit - assuming she was trying to win.

Unless I missed something, I don't understand why the girl's attorney did not present a stack of affidavits/certifications from medical experts confirming that her hair was actually brown and it was not dyed. I would have thought her case would have been a slam dunk.

They probably would have had to get someone to examine it right at the time when she was removed. As it appears her lawsuit was started well after the fact, it's very possible she didn't get examinations of her hair done at the time. This may be why no such specialists were called (if they indeed weren't, which I haven't checked).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What if she had shown childhood pics of her hair as being brownish? I'm sure that would've swayed the judgement!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@cleo Today 01:09 pm JST

Interesting. Mine definitely didn't - does it even happen with black hair? And would brown hair reach all the way to black for awhile? At least with relative commonality?

Anyway, she doesn't need beyond reasonable doubt. Unless the school had photographed the hair roots and they are indisputably black in the captures, she just needs to show it's more likely her hair was indeed brown at the hair checks.

If the school wants to argue after being shown evidence of brown hair that it was black only at the exact moment they were doing their hair checks, let them make the effort. It be possible, but could they make a convincing case it is likely?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hair color under normal conditions, at least for Japanese people, does not change between 15 and 21 years of age. Supporting evidence that her natural hair color is brown in 2020/2021 would be just as valid as if done in 2015. Hair color "may" change during that period for some people, ie; caucasians with blonde/dirty blonde hair.

I agree, but we're talking a legal case here. As the claim of the school was that her hair was dyed at the point when they examined it, she would need to prove it wasn't dyed - at that point. An expert could only show that she has non-black hair, and maybe that hair can sometimes display in the way that the school described (colored roots). They couldn't certify that her hair wasn't dyed at that point without having examined her hair.

Just to clarify though - this is all a speculative answer to Alan Harrison's question in his post. I have no inside knowledge of this trial, whether any experts were called at all, and what they said if they were. I was just pointing out a possible reason why such experts may not have been introduced, if in fact they weren't, which I haven't looked into.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Assuming no spite, feels like her hair wasn't really brown. The ending would have been a little bit different if it was.

Looks like the only lesson the teachers were concerned about was conform. I wonder how the case is viewed from the education stand point.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Just a disclaimer: I really think hair regs are Bull. If we must have hair regs, I'll say the hair reg should be on the lines of "You can choose your hair color as you enter the school. Even if it is Green or Purple. However, you will have to retain the hair color for all three years of your school life, so think hard."

Still, answers need to be made:

ClippetyClopToday 04:51 pm JST

What is this girl's natural hair colour? Which attorney is the onus on to prove it either way?

Since this is a civil case, the onus will likely be on the plaintiff to prove her hair is black to a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Also the judge claimed that “It cannot be said that the school was forcing [the girl] to dye her hair black,”, yet agrees that they left her with no other way to attend school unless she did so. Sounds quite forceful to me.

If you assume her hair is black, then she's being asked to remove the brown dye from her hair, not dyeing it black. Even if there is no way to get the hair black (for now) except to dye it, a one-time dye job until new black hair grows out is a lot less likely to damage the scalp and hair than to continuously dye new brown hair black for the pleasure of the school. Further, if we agree her hair was black, then even if she's trying out a new identity with brown hair, at least she used to have an identity with black hair, which makes it less damaging than if you force someone with brown hair her entire life to dye it black.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Harry_GattoToday 04:34 pm JST

This should not end like this. Assuming that the girl still has naturally dark brown hair then it is very easy to prove that the school was wrong and should be found guilty on appeal with the teachers involved being named.

One wonders whether the girl tried to arrange some kind of expert examination of her hair for submission to the court, and if not, why.

Let's be fair to the school: Just because she's a plaintiff doesn't mean she can't have overstated her case. It's not impossible that the school is correct that it's black at the roots but she thought she could get away with a "natural brown" color.

-16 ( +3 / -19 )

Private high school had a rule. Girl attends said school voluntarily agreeing to the rules. Girl dyes hair against rules. School asks her to conform to rules in place before girl agreed to attend school. Girl refuses. Girl gets the boot. Girl files frivolous law suit in frustration after realizing that without a high school diploma life isn't so good. Court rejects claim.

There... I managed to put this story into 4 lines.

Now, if her hair WAS naturally brown (which it wasn't) this would and should be very different.

Moral to the story... If you want to color your hair then don't sign up to a school that doesn't let you.

-19 ( +0 / -19 )

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