Why a yes-or-no question for job seekers is now a topic of hope for millions of Americans.

Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

That's an uncomfortable question to have to answer. Especially if you're trying to get a job. And having to respond by checking a box "yes" or "no" — without much room for additional information — doesn't seem fair.


Image via the City of Baton Rouge.

If you disclose a criminal background to a potential employer, it's hard to know whether it was held against you.

Unless, of course, you get the job, which is unlikely for former convicts, according to a study by Princeton and Northwestern universities. It's a problem that could affect millions, as over 600,000 people exit prison every year.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

As part of a broad plan to stem mass incarceration, President Obama is asking federal agencies to hold criminal background inquiries for later in their hiring processes to avoid potential discrimination. But the president is not alone on the issue.

A growing number of political leaders want to "ban the box" by removing the question from job applications.

Laws banning the box have passed in 19 states and over 100 cities from every nook of the country. They're known as "fair chance" laws.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for ColorOfChange.org.

The idea isn't to get rid of a safeguard. Employers still have the right to run background checks. Banning the box just levels the playing field for folks with criminal pasts who want to rejoin the workforce but are likely to be dismissed solely because of their pasts.

These laws are passing with strong support from Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government.

At the municipal level, for example, New York City's fair chance law passed in a landslide, and the Louisville, Kentucky, city council passed a law without dissent.

And at the state level, the Nebraska legislature unanimously passed a fair chance law in 2014, making it the first "red" state to take the action. Just months later, GOP presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie signed a fair chance hiring bill into law in New Jersey.

“Everyone deserves a second chance in New Jersey. Today, we're banning the box." — Gov. Chris Christie. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.

City officials in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are among the latest to join the ban-the-box movement. In one of the highest-crime cities in the country, many Baton Rouge residents face hiring discrimination because of their criminal records.

City council member C. Denise Marcelle sees fair chance laws as an important way to change the trend by opening doors for ex-cons to make a living without crime.

Photo by the City of Baton Rouge.

A federal "ban the box" bill — the Fair Chance Act — has been introduced by a bipartisan group in Congress.

And a bizarre alliance of lobbies agree on the issue. Among them are the NAACP, the ACLU, and — wait for it — the Koch brothers.

Banning the box has also surfaced in the 2016 presidential race, particularly among the candidates for the Democratic nomination. Hopefully issues like it — ones that are plainly about doing what's right — can pierce the static and keep us focused on what's really at stake when we're choosing our leadership.

Here's a lighter take on banning the box by "The Daily Show" that sheds a little more light on why it's gaining so much support:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 10.23.15


Getting people who don't suffer from anxiety issues to understand them is hard.

People have tried countless metaphors and methods to describe what panic and anxiety is like. But putting it into the context of a living nightmare, haunted house style, is one of the more effective ways I've ever seen it done.

Brenna Twohy delivered the riveting poetic analogy recently in Oakland, starting out by going off about some funny "Goosebumps" plots. It's lovely, funny, sweet, and relatable, and it's totally worth the short time to watch.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."