- GENERAL NEWS
Bar Association Calls for Changes to Japan school’s haircut rules
2:00 JST, March 30, 2023
OSAKA — School rules that call for students to style their hair in a certain way do not violate the Constitution, but teachers physically checking or cutting students’ hair is an infringement of human rights, the Osaka Bar Association said Thursday.
The bar association issued a letter of admonishment Monday to Seifu High School in Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, and its operating entity over the school’s mandated “Seifu cut” hairstyle.
The all-male private school, which offers junior high and high school education, has around about 1,780 students.
According to the letter and the school, the rules mandate that students’ hair be trimmed short around the ears and the neckline, and bangs should not touch the eyebrows.
The rules are reportedly based on Buddhist teachings that encourage people to “see what they should see” and “hear what they should hear.” The school changed its designated hairstyle from a close crop to the current style in or around 1970.
The school’s student handbook includes a photo of the desired hairstyle, and teachers conduct monthly checks for violators.
In April last year, several students contacted the bar association citing the teachers’ actions as a possible violation of their human rights. The bar association subsequently conducted interviews with students and parents, while liaising with the school.
In its admonishment, the bar association did not wholly rule out an infringement of human rights vis-a-vis the imposition of a designated hairstyle. However, it also said that private schools’ distinctive educational policies should be respected.
As such, the association deemed that the school’s rules do not violate the Constitution, which guarantees the right to self-determination and freedom of expression.
On the other hand, the bar association cited incidents in which teachers had pinched and pulled students’ hair and cut their bangs with scissors during hair inspections.
Such acts “infringe on freedom of hairstyle by exceeding the scope of socially acceptable guidance, and are not based on justifiable reason,” the association said.
It called for the school to conduct future hair inspections on a purely visual basis.
The admonishment is nonbinding but the bar association requested that rules and other information regarding the designated hairstyle be made known to prospective students before they submit admission applications, at the very least.
The school’s operating body said that it would take the admonishment seriously and consider how to respond to the matter in good faith.
The complaint submitted to the bar association was based on disquiet among students and others relating to the school’s rules that prohibit students from wearing a hairstyle of their choice.
The students said they did not receive sufficient information about such rules during pre-entrance exam orientation sessions and began to have doubts about the regulation after starting at the school.
In January last year, students learned that the Fukuoka Bar Association was working to abolish or review inappropriate school rules at municipal junior high schools in Fukuoka City, which led the students to consult with a lawyer specializing in children’s rights.
While pursuing their human rights claim, they held a petition drive asking other students and their parents to seek a review of the school rules. The drive drew support from about 360 people.
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