The "Mix It Up"
Day is part of the Teaching Tolerance initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The initiative, which has been an ongoing event for the last 10 years, encourages students to "identify, question and cross social boundaries."
More than 2,500 schools participate in the program according to Gawker
points out that a new school year can be exciting for some, and scary for others. Students that are attending new schools sometimes fear whether they will fit in or be accepted. Those that are returning to their old schools may have faced bullying, sexual harassment, racial slurs or other forms of discrimination in the past. The "Mix It Up" program helps students to interact with those who may be "different" from them and promotes awareness centering around non-discrimination, bullying and harassment.
The American Family Association (AFA)
however has a different take on the program. In a statement released Oct. 3rd, they warn parents about the program and say:
"The homosexual activist group, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), has been called to task by public school administrators across the nation for falsely listing schools as participants in "Mix It Up" day without authorization or permission. "Mix It Up" day is an entry-level "diversity" program designed specifically by SPCL to establish the acceptance of homosexuality into public schools, including elementary and junior high schools."
The Southern Poverty Law Center
states their mission is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Their strategy for accomplishing their mission includes:
- Tracking the activities of hate groups and domestic terrorists across America, and launching innovative lawsuits that seek to destroy networks of radical extremists.
- Providing educators with free resources that teach school children to reject hate, embrace diversity and respect differences.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights is one of four priorities they focus on. The other three priorities are helping children at risk, especially children of color and those with disabilities, monitoring hate groups and extremists throughout the United States and exposing their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media and the public, and, finally, assisting immigrants who face bigotry and discrimination in their communities and who are often vulnerable to hate crimes.
Maureen Costello, director of the Southern Poverty Center's Teaching Tolerance program, says the group started the national campaign 11 years ago with the purpose of helping to organize the event so schools can participate on their own terms and encourage students to sit with and talk to fellow students they normally would not "hang out" with during lunch.
Costello told ABC News:
"Hey, the cafeteria is in fact where kids tend to self-segregate. We're trying to get them past the idea that you have to distrust people in another group. So we started Mix It Up Day. For one day, kids will be assigned to randomly sit with other people who they wouldn't normally sit with."
Costello also told the New York Times
the program has nothing to do with sexual orientation but is about breaking up social cliques.
Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for AFA, told the NY Times
It’s just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized.”
website states they use all these means to communicate an outspoken, resolute, Christian voice throughout America.
I had 5 people read the AFA statements and the Teaching Tolerance information. I then asked them what they thought of the program and the AFA's reaction. None of the five believed that anything in the description of the program indicated that it was geared specifically towards sexual orientation. Three of those questioned wondered how a Christian organization could be against an anti-bullying program, with one of those interviewed, Mr. Young, stating:
"Spreading fear, hate and lies is not a Christian ideal, nor is it a Christian voice. Christ taught us to love our neighbor and the AFA's reaction to this program is not a representation of Christ's teachings or of what it means to be a Christian."