Strict Rules at Japanese Schools Decried as Human Rights Violations

The Japan News

FUKUOKA — About 80% of the 69 public junior high schools in Fukuoka City have rules regarding the color of students’ underwear, according to a survey recently released by the Fukuoka Bar Association on unreasonable school rules.

The association will propose reviews, arguing that many of the rules are unreasonable and some even violate human rights.

According to documents obtained by the bar association, 57 schools require underwear to be white or some other color; 50 effectively determine which uniform must be worn based on gender; 62 prohibit certain hairstyles, such as a so-called two block of shaved sides and long hair on top; and 56 prohibit eyebrow trimming.

The association also interviewed a dozen students, parents and teachers asking if they had ever experienced or witnessed unreasonable school rules or instruction.

Responses including students having to take off their underwear at school because they were not wearing the specified type. There were also reports of students having to line up in the hallway and open their shirt to be checked for the appropriate underwear, and the color of girls’ underwear being checked in the presence of male students in the gym.

Other responses included white socks having to be folded vertically, and being told to buy an appropriate pair of socks after being instructed their right sock was appropriate but not the left one. The survey also heard about not being allowed to talk when passing in front of the facility room, and trimmed eyebrows being drawn in thicker at assemblies.

“The survey found excessive restrictions and arbitrary instruction by teachers that exceeded school rules, revealing an unreasonable reality,” the association’s spokesperson said.

An official of the Fukuoka city board of education said, “Values have become more diverse as society has changed, and we are instructing schools to review any regulations that may constitute a violation of human rights.”

The following incidents were reported by students and others as unreasonable:

■ Male and female students’ underwear was checked at the same place in the gymnasium.

■ Female students had to tie their hair below their ears. Asked why, teachers replied, “Boys will be aroused by the nape of your neck” or “The government says so.”

■ Students who trimmed their eyebrows were forbidden to leave their classroom during a break — except for going to the restroom — and their eyebrows were drawn in thicker at assemblies.

■ A student was scolded for 1½ hours for shaving off their facial hair, although there is no school rule that forbids it.

■ A truant student returned to school after a while but was not allowed to enter because of a dress code violation.

■ Students were stopped by teachers from discussing school rules at a student assembly. When they voiced their opinions, they were threatened that their attitude would negatively affect their school records.