Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill to allow teenagers to work in jobs which have historically excluded minors for safety reasons.
get more stories like this via email
Supporters argued the measure would help alleviate staffing shortages, but critics said it would put Iowa teens in danger.
Senate File 167 would allow employers to hire children as young as 14, if they are enrolled in work-based learning programs at school.
Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa Federation of Labor, said the bill would allow young people to work jobs in places which could put them at risk.
"Meat coolers, loading and unloading equipment onto and off of vehicles, railroad cars, conveyors, hand tools, industrial laundromats," Wishman outlined.
He contended dangerous jobs -- such as those in meatpacking or mining with a history of deadly accidents -- are still restricted, but the bill would allow the state to grant waivers for jobs in those sectors if employers can make the case they need more workers.
The Iowa Restaurant Association supports the measure, saying it would help them replace workers lost during the pandemic. A Senate committee will consider the bill Thursday morning.
Wishman added there are plenty of opportunities for minors to work which do not put them at high risk of injury, such as bagging groceries.
Connie Ryan, spokesperson for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, described the bill as "like taking a step back in time," when minors were unprotected from dangerous working conditions. She added it would hit especially hard in marginalized communities.
"Communities who experience poverty, and they may forgo their children's safety and take any number of these jobs," Ryan asserted.
Critics also pointed out there is no restitution provision in the bill should a minor be seriously injured on the job. Despite opposition from labor groups across the country, the efforts are part of a national trend to hire younger workers, prompted in part by low unemployment rates, making employees hard to find.
Extra security is in place at a Minnesota school after one student was fatally stabbed by another. The staff, including social workers, is tasked with providing emotional support, and not just at the site of the attack.
get more stories like this via email
This month's deadly incident occurred at St. Paul's Harding Senior High School. And while high-profile mass shootings at schools have gripped the nation in recent years, some campuses have had to overcome more isolated forms of violence.
Terrilyn Rivers-Cannon, board president of the School Social Work Association of America, said support staff will take charge to help students cope. She said that includes monitoring the "ripple effects" at other locations.
"We may notice that, 'Hey, this student has a sibling at another school,'"said Rivers-Cannon. "Or even further, we may look at their enrollment pattern and notice that, 'Hey, this child or these siblings attended another school also.'"
When connecting those dots, she said they realize there could still be deep connections with students at the other schools, prompting the need to see how they're responding.
In light of the documented increased demand for mental-health support in U.S. schools, the national group is providing toolkits with suggested resources for social workers to lean on.
Rivers-Cannon suggested that this more coordinated response - either to violence on campus or pandemic-fueled stress - is very timely, as a lot of students are still readjusting after periods of distance learning.
"Coming from being enclosed, it is more of a demand, more of a call to action," said Rivers-Cannon.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than one-third of high school students reported they experienced "poor mental health" during the pandemic.
A new study shows despite a long-term increase in mentoring over time, there has still been recent backsliding with Generation Z, who appear to be less likely than millennials to have a mentor. More than 2,600 people participated in the Who Mentored You? study, which revisits the mentoring gap to see if the mentoring movement has succeeded in closing it.
get more stories like this via email
Tim Wills, chief impact officer with MENTOR, said the report found fewer than half of baby boomers reported having a mentor, seven in 10 millennials had a mentor and one in three Generation Z youths reported growing up without one.
Willis said Pennsylvania needs Black male mentors most acutely.
"So there's a real gap for male mentors to step up," Willis said. "There's a gap when you look at African American mentors as well. So folks of color, stepping forward to be mentors, as well. And then just throughout the entire state, there's over 1,000 young people who are sitting on waiting lists today, waiting for mentors in the state of Pennsylvania."
The study noted the growth of mentoring has been slower in rural areas than in suburban or urban locations. Wills emphasized that young people in rural parts of Pennsylvania as well as those in foster care are less likely to have a mentor, and more mentors are still needed to close the gap.
The MENTOR study found that Americans attribute a little more than half of their success in life to the mentoring they had growing up. Wills said young people have experienced some trauma because of the pandemic, and having a mentor has helped some of them with their mental-health needs.
"Young people say time and time again that when there's a mentor in their life, the quality mentor in her life, more than half of them equate that to the success they've had in life," he said. "And so, young people need these caring adults to show up for them."
Wills encouraged Pennsylvanians interested in mentoring to visit mentoring.org, and review the resources document on Becoming a Better Mentor. It is a 12-part series on strategies and how adult mentors can provide quality relationships that help elevate youth in their communities.
By Gabes Torres for Yes! Media. Broadcast version by Kathryn Carley for Maine News Service, reporting for the YES! Media-Public News Service Collaboration
get more stories like this via email
Conversations around body positivity and body acceptance have grown over the past few years. In a way, this is progress. We are bolder in exposing and undoing fat-phobia, ableism, and other systems of body oppression that overtly and covertly exist in media, institutions, and our behaviors. There are more advertisements, clothing lines, and mainstream and social media platforms that attempt to promote body diversity.
This is long overdue, as systemic discrimination against weight, age, and different kinds of bodies in general have not only severed our own relationships with our bodies, but also have infiltrated our health care systems, pathologizing and excluding bodies that are not thin, abled, young, and White, resulting in poor quality of care. Body oppression disproportionately alienates us, specifically the bodies that do not fit the so-called standard of beauty, wholeness, and health. Capitalism and White supremacy have given us many reasons to hate our bodies, because they teach us to be ashamed of them-and to shame others.
In an article titled "Body Shame and Transformation," Sonya Renee Taylor describes the spiraling experience of body shame: "We berated and abused ourselves because we were berated and abused by others. We thought the outside voice was our own, and we let it run roughshod over our lives. And then we judged ourselves for judging ourselves, trapped on a hamster wheel of self-flagellation. Oh, honey, that is no way to live."
Shame is a social emotion and experience. It is always linked to our relationships and people's perceptions-or, rather, our perceptions of people's perceptions. Shame makes us question whether or not we truly belong as we are. Shame makes us nervously wonder about the things that make us "bad" or "wrong." In the case of body image, shame provokes us to want to hide. We hide our curves, our fat, and our softness. We hide the marks and scars that prove we made it out alive. We hide by altering the areas of our skin where our hairs grow and darker pigments reside. Shame makes us want to put a mask on.
Recent trends on social media and society at large have widely suggested that to overcome body image issues, we must be more audacious and loud about our love of our bodies. For many of us, it does help. There was a time when it was beneficial for me to publicly share my growing love for my body. I wrote and performed songs about it. I posted and tweeted selfies and images where I felt good about how I looked. It felt meaningful to resist and undermine the prevalence of Western beauty standards that made me hate my Brown, curvy body. However, the process did not help me address an inner conflict. I know I should love my body as it is, but there are days when it seems more like an abstraction-an idea that my body itself finds hard to take in. So to post about how beautiful I think my body is online sometimes feels artificial, like I'm convincing myself to believe in something that is not authentic. I feel ashamed for not having the consistency to believe the message of body positivity. I feel ashamed for having this shame. And there it goes again: the cycle of shame.
When this happens, we tend to look for ways to get rid of the body shame. Sometimes, this means seeking out what we are all socialized to do in order to solve (or hide) something: to consume. Do I need to find more body positive material and products? Do I need to hire a coach who addresses self-image? Do I need to buy more clothes and accessories that make me feel free and beautiful? The cycle of body shame continues in the allures of consumerism. Bhavika Malik shares similar observations on Polyesterzine: "The absolute and unrealistic pressure on people to love themselves transformed the body positivity movement into a toxic, profit-driven business opportunity."
In her book Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, Jia Tolentino writes, "Mainstream feminism has also driven the movement toward what's called 'body acceptance,' which is the practice of valuing women's beauty at every size and in every iteration, as well as to diversify the beauty ideal." Tolentino explains how the diversification of what it means to be beautiful and acceptable is great, but the complexity lies in the fact that "Beauty is still of paramount importance." My interpretation of this is that for as long as beauty bears utmost importance, there will always be those who dictate the standard of beauty, and those who strive to meet these standards for the purpose of social approval. But perhaps, more specifically, meeting these standards is to remove the shame that interferes with our sense of belonging. It probably isn't body positivity that the system capitalizes on per se. It capitalizes on the shame we feel any time we do not feel like we fit in or are worthy of belonging.
In her aforementioned article, Sonya Renee Taylor discusses the interruption of the cycles of shame: the practice of radical self-love and compassion. We disrupt these systemic cycles by identifying the antidote, which is also the antithesis of what the system doles out: "The only way to beat that system is by giving ourselves something the system never will: compassion."
When was the last time you experienced compassion? Similar to shame, compassion is also a social experience. It also does not aim to produce and earn as a capitalist tool. We give and receive compassion in the context of relationships, including our relationships with ourselves. Whenever we hide, we isolate ourselves, which decreases our chances of easing the shame and disrupting its cyclical nature. It's hard to seek compassion, especially when we've been judged and rejected countless times before in our vulnerability. Even then, I'd like to believe that life is not static. Without dismissing our painful experiences, life is expansive enough to have new ones. More often than not, we take this journey of undoing shame step by step-inch by inch, even.
In taking this inch by inch, we remember the value of our bodies that transcend beyond projected and imposed standards of beauty, health, and wholeness. Taking from my earliest work, I'd like to share with you the timeless truth: "Our bodies are naturally designed to root for us. They self-heal, detect danger, connect us with others and the natural world. Our bodies invite us to rest and play in its kind and creative way. And with that, I realized that my body is not just the home I've always wanted, but the home that always wanted me."
Gabes Torres wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Torres is a psychotherapist, organizer and artist. Her work focuses on anti-colonial approaches and practices within the mental-health field. She also focuses on abolitionist organizing on a global scale. You can find most of her work on her official website, gabestorres.com, and social media platforms including Instagram. Follow her on Twitter at @gabestorres.