The 18-year-old student, who wasn’t identified in local reports, wanted his hair to look “neat” for the special occasion so he sought advice from his dad, a Black, New York-based researcher, on how to style it.
The teen ended up sporting cornrows to his graduation ceremony in February but was reprimanded by school officials in Himeji City in Hyogo prefecture. The hairstyle was deemed prohibited, and he was forced to go to the second floor of the building where there were no other students.
The high school student was also told to not respond to his name when it was called during the graduation ceremony.
In an interview, the 18-year-old said of the incident: “This hairstyle is part of my father’s roots and is my culture as a Black man.”
His father also expressed disappointment over the school’s move to segregate him from his classmates.
“Braiding is a way for Black people to arrange their hair, the same way that Japanese people part their hair. It’s discriminatory to assume that a hairstyle with roots is a violation without any reason,” he said.
Following the backlash, the vice principal doubled down on the school’s actions.
“I am not denying traditional hairstyles, but I have been teaching according to hair type, and it does not mean that students could not attend graduation ceremonies because they were allowed to attend at different locations,” the school official said.