Involve students in review of possibly unnecessary regulations

The existence of unreasonable school rules regarding students’ hairstyles and clothing is becoming an issue at schools around the country. Anachronistic rules should be abolished or changed to more appropriate ones.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has compiled a draft revision of the guidelines for teachers on student guidance. One feature of the revised version is that it urges teachers to list school rules on school websites and elsewhere, and to regularly review them to determine whether they are really necessary.

The current guidelines list such items as “uniforms, permed and bleached hair, and makeup” as subjects to be covered in school rules, but these were removed in the revised version on the grounds that they could endorse these regulations.

Some schools still have rules such as “underwear must be white,” “if a student’s hair was not black at birth, it must be dyed black,” and “ponytails are not allowed.” The methods used by teachers to visually check the color of a student’s underwear and to make them remove it if they violate the rules have also been called into question.

While certain rules are necessary for school life, excessive restrictions on children’s rights and personality are going too far.

Some teachers have responded to students who tried to challenge unreasonable school rules by saying things like “it will negatively affect your conduct report,” which is attached to entrance applications to higher-level schools. Many schools must have been intent on making students abide by school rules without understanding their significance.

Each school should first examine whether its rules are in line with the times and social conditions, and they must be able to explain the importance of specific regulations to students and their parents. If they cannot do so, they must consider abolishing those rules.

Students should be directly involved in the review and establishment of school rules, through the involvement of the student government association or by discussing areas they want to see changed in class.

If the rules are set by the students themselves, then students are more likely to be aware of the need to follow them. This will also lead to “teaching that the people have sovereign power,” encouraging students to see themselves as involved parties as members of society.

Unreasonable school rules, also known as “black school rules,” are said to be the remnants of the approach to education that depended on controlling students in the 1970s and 1980s, when violence and delinquency were a problem in many schools.

In 1990, a high school student in Kobe was tragically killed when she ran through the school gate to avoid being late and was caught between the gate, which was being closed by a teacher, and a pillar. The incident drew attention as having been caused by the excessive control of students that demanded compliance with school rules.

The proposed revisions of the guidelines say that school rules “must be established for the sound school life and better growth and development of students.” Are the current school rules beneficial to children? Each school must think carefully about the proposed changes.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2022)