Nearly 2,500 U.S. schools have committed to participating in this year's "Mix It Up at Lunch Day," an initiative created 10 years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program to help reduce students' biases and misperceptions.
On Oct. 30, students at these schools will break social norms and sit with someone new at lunch. According to the Teaching Tolerance website, "students have identified the cafeteria as the place where divisions are most clearly drawn, and Mix It Up day "encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries." The site points to research indicating that "interactions across group lines can help reduce prejudice."
Seems like a nice idea, right? The conservative-leaning American Family Association doesn't think so. In a press release, the group calls the initiative "a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools." Further, AFA says SPLC "is using this project to bully-push its gay agenda, and at the same time, intimidate and silence students who have a Biblical view of homosexuality." AFA is urging parents to keep kids at home on Oct. 30 if they attend schools that are participating.
UPDATE [10/3/12 11:45am]
Teaching Tolerance released a statement on its website calling AFA's characterization of Mix It Up Day "an out-and-out lie." The statement continues: "As educators know, Mix It Up is a simple effort to get students to break through social boundaries and make new friends. ... None of that seems to matter to the AFA, a group that specializes in demonizing the LGBT community and stirring up hate."
[Editors' note: Education Week Teacher helps develop programming for Teaching Tolerance's Culturally Responsive Teaching Awards event.]