Photo/IllutrationHigh school students return home in Gifu Prefecture. (Shoko Matsuura)

GIFU--Prefectural high schools are abolishing long-standing rules that are said to violate students’ human rights, such as restricting underwear color, but some other heavily criticized regulations will remain in place.

The prefecture’s board of education said that all rules deemed “inappropriate” will be scrapped at most of the 61 full-time high schools from next fiscal year, which starts in April, following a transition period.

The move comes after the board, on the suggestion of a civic group, instructed prefectural high school principals at a conference in February to review their rules from the viewpoint of protecting students’ human rights.

The results of those reviews showed that at least 90 percent of the 61 schools impose rules that put unnecessarily strict restrictions on their students’ lives.

The civic group, called Children’s Human Rights Network Gifu and headed by lawyer Yoshifusa Kawai, has been calling for the scrapping of such school rules.

“(They) violate the Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Basic Education Law,” a group representative said.

Four sets of school rules were subject to the review: requiring students to obtain permission from their schools for private overnight stays or trips; requiring students to notify or seek permission from their schools to attend rallies or join a political organization, despite their right to freedom of political activities; regulations that may violate students’ human rights, such as confirming that they are adhering to restrictions on color and type of underwear; and rules that are no longer applicable, given the changes in social norms.

According to the reviews, 16 schools dictate that students should wear underwear of a certain color and style with their school uniforms, 46 require students to notify or seek permission from their schools for overnight stays or travel in their private time, and 11 restrict students from taking part in election campaigns and political activities.

These rules will be formally abolished at the schools. However, a transition period is needed because some rules are included in student handbooks that will remain in effect until the end of the current fiscal year.

Some school rules were not scrapped despite criticism.

Eight prefectural schools will maintain a rule requiring incoming students to report the color and type of their natural hair.

Gifu Sogo Gakuen High School’s rule stipulates that students born with a hair that is not straight or black should report these features to the student guidance department if they pass the entrance exam.

The board of education did not require schools to abolish these rules, saying it is urging schools to explain to students and their parents that the rules are intended to protect students with naturally curly or lighter hair. By reporting such natural features early on, the students can avoid receiving orders normally given to those with colored or artificially curled hair to straighten or dye their hair black.

“It’s good that schools have started responding to our calls,” Kawai said. “We still need to continue discussions to eliminate infringements on children’s human rights.”