Japanese Teen Forced to ‘Dye Hair Black or Quit School’

A Japanese schoolgirl is suing her local government, after she says her school made her repeatedly dye her naturally brown hair black in keeping with the institute’s ban on hair coloring.

The 18-year-old has not attended her public high school in the city of Osaka, central Japan, since September last year due to rash and scalp pain and irritation caused by the black hair dye, Reuters and Japanese news site Kyodo report.

The girl, who has not been identified by local media due to her age, is now suing the government of Osaka and seeking damages of about 2.2 million yen ($19,300). The lawsuit claims she was forced to “either dye the hair black or quit school,” according to Reuters.

A May 2017 survey by Asahi Shimbun, an Osaka-based national newspaper, found that 57% of public high schools in Tokyo ask students with light-colored hair for proof — including childhood or junior high photos — that their hair color is natural.

“Some students insist that their hair is natural even though it is dyed,” a teacher working in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo told the publication. “We ask their parents to confirm these claims as their responsibility.”

Kaifukan School did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment but the principal, Masahiko Takahashi, told Reuters that the school has a policy prohibiting students from dyeing or bleaching their hair. The school would even demand blond foreign students to dye their hair black, the Japan Times reports.

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