From the March-April 2023 issue of News & Letters
by Buddy Bell
Students from 47 different schools in Iowa walked out of class on March 1. With chants of “We say gay” and “[insert school name] says gay!” the students protested a package of bills advancing in the Iowa legislature and modeled after the U.S. conservative movement’s “Don’t Say Gay” craze.
STUDENTS SPEAK WITH PASSION
As he marched toward the governor’s mansion in Des Moines, Dayton Fleenor expressed how he felt about a provision requiring parental notice if a student begins using different pronouns. “Any person knows if your parent doesn’t agree with what you are, life is not going to be easy for you… we’re just trying to make it easier for all of those students.” In Johnston, Waverly Zhao, cofounder of the student group IowaWTF, said she organized a walkout to “promote the need for conversations about LGBTQ issues in schools, which is something that is being taken away with a lot of these bills.”
In Ankeny, a walkout of about 100 students was harassed by someone yelling slurs from a passing car. “I will raise my voice so high they can’t help but hear me,” said Evan Huegel, to cheers. In Marion, Hannah Neuville said, “We refuse to stay silent. This generation has the power to speak up and out about the issues that affect us. The government shouldn’t have a say in private matters such as sexual orientation, gender identity—it doesn’t affect them. We say gay, we say trans, and that will not change.”
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Instead of tackling corporate greed and the refusal to invest profits back into labor, bipartisan majorities in several U.S. states have tried to address labor shortages by introducing bills that loosen restrictions on child labor, including New Jersey, Minnesota, and Ohio. A bill pending in Iowa would allow minors to work in slaughterhouses.
The laws are passed even as they retroactively condone employers who already skirt or outright violate existing laws. Meatpacking companies in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin were already found employing children last year, as were Alabama auto manufacturers. The Department of Labor removed 688 children from illegal workplaces in 2022.
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In Scotland, the West Dunbartonshire Youth Council held a protest March 1 against imminent spending cuts to a youth assistance and engagement program called “Working4U” in this town north of Glasgow. Some of the placards held at the demonstration read: “We didn’t vote for cuts!” “There’s nothing left to cut!” “Save our centre! Save our gym!” “Shame on any councilor passing savage cuts!”