CHIBA — Some 65% of municipalities in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, have public high schools with rules on the color of underwear, a survey of controversial school rules has revealed.
The Chiba Bar Association Children’s Rights Committee surveyed the prefectural government and 54 municipalities starting in October 2021. The committee collected public high school rules through information disclosure requests and ‘direct interviews with staff, and asked school boards and schools about the purpose of adopting rules. of questionable rationality.
According to the recently released results, 36 municipalities (65.5%) disclosed rules requiring students to wear white underwear. The committee calls for these to be reconsidered as they are “unreasonable”. When asked about the reasons for the rules, responses included, “To prevent the influence of fashion trends and minimize the financial burden on families”, and that “public morals can be disrupted” without them.
In addition, rules prohibiting certain hairstyles were in place in 45 municipalities (81.8%). In some cases, braids and “two-piece” haircuts were banned. Reasons given included “to maintain an appropriate appearance for entrance examination interviews and other occasions” and “good manners”.
Other rules included designating the color and length of socks and tights as well as hair length in 54 municipalities (98.2%), and the color and design of hair ties and hairpins in 41 municipalities (74.5%).
The committee also conducted an online survey of junior high school students and their guardians. More than 190 people responded, with more than 90% saying they were skeptical of the school’s current rules.
Based on the survey results, the committee recommends that each school make its rules public and that they be reviewed annually through discussions between schools and their students. Proposed revisions to the student guidance handbook for teachers and staff, compiled by the Department for Education in August, would also require each school to post its rules on its website, clarify how they are set and the procedures for revising them.
The committee said: “Some of the school’s rules were deemed to be imposed for the convenience of adults. We must not forget that children have rights-based freedoms.”
After receiving the findings and recommendations from the prefectural bar association, Chiba Governor Toshihito Kumagai said at a regular press conference on September 8, “It is desirable to respect children’s autonomy and to review school rules that struggle to gain social understanding”. Acknowledging the need for student councils and other groups to speak up and, in some cases, discuss the issue with school officials with the support of tutors, he said, “I would like to maintain my support for volunteer efforts”.
The superintendent of the prefectural board of education, Masako Tomizuka, told the press on September 8 that “the rules of the school are not established with the intention of violating the human rights of children” and that “we should listen to students’ opinions and review rules that do not conform to the times.”
(Japanese original by Tatsuya Naganuma, Katsuyoshi Ishikawa and Yoshitaka Yamamoto, Chiba Bureau)