Take Note

December 04, 2002 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Mixing It Up

It became a commonplace observation of the civil rights movement to observe that Sunday mornings—church time—were the most segregated hours in American life.

Nowadays, champions of integration are as likely to point to lunchtime in school cafeterias.

Punks and preps, Spanish-speaking and Portuguese- speaking, blacks and whites—too often, students sort themselves by racial or social characteristics, rarely to venture beyond their personal comfort zones, observers say.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, students from more than 3,000 schools across the country recently declared at the first “Mix It Up at Lunch Day.”

On Nov. 21, young people from student councils, diversity groups, leadership workshops, and a variety of other organizations at elementary, middle, and high schools promoted the simple act of having lunch with someone new. The event was sponsored by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group based in Montgomery, Ala.

“To get the kind of response we got is absolutely amazing,” said Kalvin Datcher, the center’s outreach coordinator, who said organizers would have been satisfied with half of the participation that they got.

The students “absolutely just ran with it and made it their own.”

To get beyond the divisions, organizers regrouped students for lunch by birthday month, different-colored tickets, or numbers marked on their hands. In some schools, the change in seating was voluntary; in others, everyone was assumed to be a participant.

Results were mixed, according to reports on the project’s Web site and in the news media.

“Once a few students moved to new seats, almost everyone started doing it,” a student named Sarah wrote on the project’s Web site.

But Kristin found that “few of the people I sat with were welcoming or supportive.” Still, she continued, “maybe it will make them think about or respect the fact that people are taking steps to reach out and help stop discrimination and segregation.”

Project leaders see the lunch as the start of a campaign to “Mix It Up” all year long. And in the future, they hope to include corporate cafeterias and other settings because adults, they say, need to “mix it up,” too.

The primary focus, however, remains schools.

—Bess Keller

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 2002 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: January 12, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education School Bus Driver Retires After 48 Years Behind Wheel
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick sat behind the wheel for the final time last week, wrapping up a 48-year career for the district.
3 min read
Charles City school bus driver Betty Flick poses with one of her farewell signs. Flick has been driving for Charles City School District for 48 years.
Betty Flick quickly fell in love with the job and with the kids, which is what has had her stay in the district for this long.
Courtesy of Abby Koch/Globe Gazette
Education Briefly Stated: December 1, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read