Ministry calls for review of ‘unreasonable’ school rules

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

Amid growing concern over unreasonable school rules, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has urged schools and local boards of education to reconsider whether their codes of conduct are still in tune with the circumstances of their students and communities.

In making the request, the education ministry pointed out examples of rules that had been scrapped by some of the nation’s schools — including much-maligned mandates regulating the color of students’ underwear — and reiterated that school rules are not set in stone, but rather should be continually reexamined in accordance with the changing times and evolving social norms.

A teacher guidebook presented by the ministry in 2010 stipulates that school rules are to be decided by school principals, and warrant periodic review to ensure that they pass the “necessary and reasonable” litmus test.

But apparently not all schools got the memo. In recent years, public scrutiny has called into question the appropriateness of longstanding school rules, such as those prescribing certain hairstyles or dictating that students are only allowed to white underwear. The latter case has proved particularly problematic, as enforcement of the rule requires teachers to conduct visual inspections of their students’ underwear; if caught in violation of the color code, some students have been ordered to disrobe.

To compel action on these issues, the ministry issued a notice on June 8, calling on schools to review their rules taking into account factors ranging from the input of students, parents/guardians, and the community to considerations of common sense and social progress.