General Articles

Opposition Loses Lunch over ‘Mix It Up’ Activities

The American Family Association (AFA), a conservative evangelical group, criticized the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) annual Mix it Up at Lunch Day, a nationwide event to promote tolerance in schools. Mix It Up at Lunch Day uses school cafeterias as a forum to break up social cliques, oppose bullying, and promote tolerance.1 AFA denounced the event, now in its 11th season, as “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”2

SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project launched Mix It Up at Lunch Day to help students recognize and question social boundaries and reduce prejudices. The program uses ice-breakers and classroom activities to explore social boundaries, and encourages students to “move out of their comfort zone and connect with someone new over lunch.”3 SPLC surveys have identified the cafeteria as the place where students feel social divisions and cliques are most apparent.

AFA, which refers to itself as a “pro-family” organization, encouraged parents to boycott the event and called SPLC a “homosexual activist group.”4 AFA accused SPLC of creating Mix It Up at Lunch Day to promote acceptance of homosexuality in public schools and of oppressing Christian students by prohibiting them opportunities to express their disapproval of homosexuality.

Although Mix It Up at Lunch Day is not solely focused on sexual orientation, Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello commented that the SPLC “stand[s] for equal rights of LGBT students. They cannot be beaten or bullied in school. The whole purpose of the day was simply to get people to break through that fear…And maybe would set up some kind of reflection before the next time you label someone and put them in a box.”5

The SPLC has recently added AFA to a list of active hate groups for its anti-gay philosophy. Ken Schram, a commentator for Seattle’s KOMO News, weighed in on the situation in an op-ed: “How incredibly sad that a fringe group of fear-mongering people would exert their influence to try to squelch efforts aimed at helping kids who are picked on, ostracized and bullied for what may be their skin color, religion, social status and yes, their sexual orientation.” While approximately 200 schools, citing calls from upset parents, chose to dodge controversy and avoided participating in Mix It Up at Lunch Day, 6 an additional 400 have registered, bringing the total number of participants to approximately 2,800 schools nationwide.7 2012’s Mix It Up Day took place on November 13.

1“‘Mix It Up at Lunch Day’ Prompts American Family Association to Urge Boycott, Protest ‘Promotion of Homosexual Lifestyle'” Huffington Post Education, 15 October 2012, accessed 5 November 2012, <>.

2Nirvi Shah, “Conservative Group Pressures Schools to Nix ‘Mix-It-Up’ Day,” Education Week, 18 October 2012, accessed 5 November2012, <>.

3Teaching Tolerance: A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center web site, accessed 5 November 2012, <>.

4Shah, “Conservative Group Pressures…”

5Shah, “Conservative Group Pressures…”

6On Top Magazine Staff, “CNN’S Carol Costello Challenges Bryan Fischer’s Anti Gay Rhetoric,”, 17 October 2012, accessed 7 November 2012, <>.

7Bonnie Miller Rubin, “Anti-Bullying Effort Gets Push-Back from Evangelical Groups: Some Conservatives See Inclusiveness as Pro-Gay,”, 1 November 2012, accessed 7 November 2012, <>.