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Students challenge stereotypes, cross social boundaries on Mix It Up at Lunch Day

Schools across the country expected to participate today in signature Teaching Tolerance event.

Students from grade school to college will use today as an opportunity to make their schools more welcoming places by participating in Mix It Up at Lunch Day – an event that asks students around the world to challenge stereotypes by stepping out of their cliques and sitting with someone new in the cafeteria for just one day.

More than 7,000 schools are expected to participate in the event sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. Since its launch in 2002, Mix It Up has been used by educators to create schools where students see each other as individuals – not just members of separate groups. Breaking down these barriers can help reduce bullying and help create a school that is safe and welcoming for all students.

“Mix It Up at Lunch Day can be an eye-opening event for students as they realize just how much they have in common with their classmates and how wonderful their differences can be,” said Monita Bell, Teaching Tolerance’s Mix It Up coordinator. “We want students to remember these experiences and recognize how cliques and labels don’t tell you everything about a person. It’s never too early – or too late – to learn that important lesson.”

In addition to the elementary, middle and high schools, 42 colleges and universities are participating. Schools outside the United States will also “Mix It Up,” including schools in France, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Ghana and Canada.

Mix It Up focuses on cafeterias because that’s where a school’s social boundaries are most obvious. Some schools use the event to kick off yearlong explorations of social divisions throughout the school.

This year, a record-setting 104 schools are serving as Mix Model Schools. These schools follow their Mix It Up at Lunch Day with other events that encourage students to be more inclusive throughout the year. A list of Mix It Up Model Schools can be found here.

Although today is the official launch date for the event, schools can “Mix It Up” any time. Each school sets its own agenda, makes its own plans and chooses its own theme. Schools are encouraged to register their event here.

Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. It produces and distributes tools at no cost to educators, including Teaching Tolerance magazine, online curricula and professional development resources, and multimedia teaching kits that introduce students to various civil rights issues.