Opposition from the American Family Association is not stopping about 70 Alabama schools from participating in a program that encourages schoolchildren to sit at different lunch tables and meet new people on Tuesday.
The program, “Mix It Up at Lunch Day,” is promoted by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The program encourages schools to help students to sit with groups and people they would not normally mingle with, and learn about lives and interests. Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello says Mix It Up is an “anti-bias” program.
“‘Mix It Up’ is a very simple program meant to challenge the idea of stereotypes,” Costello said. “It’s just sitting down and breaking bread with someone from a different group.”
About 3,000 schools across the nation are set to participate today, according to a press release from SPLC. But the conservative American Family Association has encouraged parents to urge schools to withdraw from the program. According to an “Action Alert” on the AFA website, Mix It Up is part of plan to “promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools.”
“‘Mix It Up’ day is an entry-level ‘diversity’ program designed specifically by SPCL [sic] to establish the acceptance of homosexuality into public schools, including elementary and junior high schools,” the Action Alert states.
When asked for more information on the AFA resistance to the Mix It Up program, an AFA staffer responded in an e-mail.
“While ‘Mix It Up’ day sounds wonderful on its surface, they are using it to get names of schools to add to their partnership lists that they will then use to send out information and learning materials on other programs, such as teaching children as young as kindergarten, that being gay is okay and it is not sinful,” AFA staffer Anelese Holt wrote in an e-mail.
“Many times students request the free information on ‘Mix-It-Up’ day and are thereby inadvertently giving this group their school’s name,” Holt wrote. “The principals, superintendents and school boards are often unaware of their ‘partnership’ with this radical organization. Once they receive this ‘partner’ status the SPLC will begin to send them information on other programs that are not so innocent.”
“This is a totally inaccurate representation of how people come to Teaching Tolerance to get information,” Costello said.
“People who sign up for ‘Mix’ don’t get information for other programs unless they ask for them.”
AFA is listed on the SPLC website as an anti-gay group, and a note in response to AFA’s campaign on the Teaching Tolerance website describes AFA as “a group that specializes in demonizing the LGBT community and stirring up hate.”
Costello said that Mix It Up day was started 11 years ago with race in mind, and the program expanded to include socioeconomic status, disabilities, and other factors.
The Christian Science Monitor reported Monday that the Mix It Up program saw a 30 percent increase in participation in 2012 over 2011.