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Unions slam LAUSD for ‘English only’ rule for cafeteria workers

Craig Clough | October 30, 2014

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espanolTwo unions that represent teachers and support staff at LA Unified schools are calling on the district to rescind its “English only” rule that was issued earlier this month to cafeteria workers at Harvard Elementary, saying the rule sends the wrong message to students and parents,

An “English only” sign was posted in the cafeteria of the Koreatown school a few weeks ago.

Most cafeteria workers there are native Spanish speakers, and 86 percent of students identify as Hispanic, yet the district called the directive a safety issue.

That explanation is falling flat with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents district teachers, and Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents the cafeteria workers and other district employees like bus drivers and groundskeepers.

“When the majority of cafeteria workers at the school speak Spanish, how is it safer for those workers to communicate only in English in the cafeteria or anywhere on campus?” the unions said in a joint statement. “When a great majority of cafeteria and other service workers live in the communities where they work and are often parents of children attending LAUSD schools, how does an ‘English Only’ policy promote a welcoming school community?”

Speaking to LA School Report earier this month, Monica Carazo, a district spokeswoman, said the policy only applied specifically to when food was being handled.

“It’s not that we’re telling them you can’t speak Spanish or whatever language they speak,” Carazo said. “It’s just that for safety reasons, when they’re handling food everybody has to be on the same page. If someone says, ‘Hot plate!,’ we want everyone to understand.”

The unions said the sign sends the wrong message and are calling upon the district to review the “English only” policy.

“As the District seeks broader parent engagement and stronger ties with our immigrant communities, it is necessary to re-examine this rule. In a community as diverse as Los Angeles bilingual and multilingual skills should be celebrated,” the unions’ statement said.

Why the sign was only posted at Harvard Elementary is not clear, but according to CBS Los Angeles, it has started to worry workers at other district cafeterias.

“The workers are getting concerned. They’re asking, ‘Is this English-only policy going to be in effect for everybody?’” Gamaliel Andrade, a cafeteria worker at Farmdale Elementary, told CBS. See the full CBS report below.

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