Segregated School Lunch Today, 40-Year-Old Virgins Tomorrow

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school lunchExcept for a few select group of people I like to call "kidding themselves," nobody has fond memories of middle schools. It's all braces and bras and boners behind the bookbag. So news that a hand full of Kansas middle schools are separating their hormonal young teens by gender for the lunch hour sounds like a dream come true, right?

In fact, school officials tell Reuters single-gender lunch is a great thing -- there's no flirting, no "chattering," and the kids are cleaning their plates. No wasted food! No "distracted kids." No learning about the real world! Oh wait, I added that last part.

Every time I hear "segregation in schools," I have the same thought. Whether it's races or genders being separated, it  has no application in the real world. And yet, that's what our schools are supposed to be doing: preparing our kids for adulthood -- both academically and socially.

The thought of kids not "chattering" at lunch doesn't sound attractive to me. It sounds clinical. It sounds sad. It's sounds socially retarding. As a teenager, I recall lunchtime as my outlet,  my chance to talk to my friends and feel more like a human, less like a worker bee in the cog of the school machine.

It's in the teen years when male/female interactions begin to take on real meaning. As elementary schoolers, everyone is friends with everyone. Kindergarten girls play with kindergarten boys. Hormones haven't taken their toll yet . . . but they will. And teens need the chance to work that out in a safe environment, to deal socially with one another, to figure out what works and what doesn't. If not at lunch, when?

By the teen years, you've already had recess taken away, and your after-school hours are being taken up by increasing amounts of homework and home responsibilities. Lunch, for most kids, remains the one time when there's no work to be done, a time to settle in and just enjoy the break. Kids need that. Adults need that -- labor law mandates a lunch break for Americans who work a full day because of it.

Better in the cafeteria with teachers watching than at a bar with bad pick-up lines because they never learned, right?


Image via Micah Sittig/Flickr

biggest loser, puberty, school

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poshkat poshkat

when i was in JHS we had a girl side and a boy side in the cafeteria. we had to ask permission to go to the boys side to get anything from the vending machines if ours broke down and the same for them most of the time if you wore something the teachers didn't like, one in particular if you had ripped jeans which were very popular in the mid 90s they would not let you go or go for you if you offered them the money. it sucked big time for me and some of my other friends. if you didn't ask permission and went anyway you would get thrown out of the cafeteria, which would result in being teased the rest of the day and the next few days. a few years after i left i heard they stopped doing it because of complaints from students and parents.


it was very tough since the girls were very clicky and if you were not in a click than you were ignored the whole lunch time which is devastation for junior high school aged kids. we also had to sit with our homeroom and if you wanted to sit with friends who were not you had to ask permission and most times you would not get it.


this was not a catholic school, it was a public school run by the most evil woman that has ever lived. the cafeteria was horrible but they let us play together in gym.

Histo... HistoryMamaX3

I'm not sure if I agree with this or not... but as a middle school teacher, I will be quick to point out that your middle school career is already about as far away from the 'real' world as you are ever going to get. During this time, teachers are just trying to get them through the day at hand- real world training comes a bit later, when they can think  slightly more beyond the next hormonal crisis. :-)

lovin... lovinangels

We had split cafeterias as well. I still managed to get knocked up at 22.  You may find that the girls eat a bit healthier (as in, at all) without the boy they like staring at them.

meatb... meatball77

If kids can't socilize during lunch (or between classes) they will do it during class.

Proud... ProudSingleMum

I don't see this as a horrible thing. 

nonmember avatar Danielle

YES, I had to bring this up. No flirting? Well, um excuse me but lets just keeping on leaving a certain group of people out. While I do thing the whole gender thing is a bad idea I think it's even worse that were completely ignoring homosexuals. (You may be asking how now) Well, well ... my mind is still working on that part ,but my ONLY point is saying that there will be no flirting is just silly.

LOOne... LOOneyPLR

Not all girls befriend boys to flirt with them - and not all boys befriend girls to flirt with them.  Sometimes, they just want to be friends and this tells kids that it's wrong.

beach... beachmamaof2

This is stupid - why would the girls not chat w/ other girls and the boys not chat w/ other boys - as is actually what normally happens naturally in a middle school lunchroom.


Perhaps we were immature or something but in middle school we pretty much self segregated ourselves at lunchtime; "clicks" of friends eating together - mostly all girls or all boys at a table...I'm not getting why they need to be in two different 'rooms' or areas...

Jessica Darling

I think kids have all four years of high school to learn to flirt and interact with opposite gendered friends. Junior high kids are still KIDS, but now they're starting to experience "like-like". They can, will, and do make googley eyes all through science class; but they still hang out in same gendered cliques during most of their free time.

This weekend I chaperoned my son's 6th grade school dance. The girls jumped to the music, standing in little circles. The boys jumped to the music in little two-somes trying to break into the girls cliques (or just peacock) - and surprisingly, there weren't many wallflowers!

But, I wonder if the seperate lunches allow them to focus on building and strengthening their friendships rather than focusing on their budding libidos? So many teens give up their friends whenever they get a new boy/girl friend, only to jump back to their friends when they break up. Maybe giving them time to flirt in the hall between classes, and just be kids at lunch will instill that value of loyalty and community with one another. Then in high school when it's age appropriate they'll have plenty of years to hang out at lunch, date, and learn boy/girl romantic protocol. They don't need to learn it at age 11 to have healthy relationship boundaries in adulthood.

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