The Department of Education and The Department of Justice Require Translation of Special Education Documents
Communications to parents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) may now have to be translated. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice recently distributed a statement of interest filed in a Pennsylvania case. They are now interpreting Title VI and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act to require educational agencies to reduce language barriers of LEP parents.
It states a student’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is a vital document that therefore must be made accessible. While acknowledging a full oral interpretation may sometimes be appropriate, it states “the District must be prepared to provide translated IEPs to provide meaningful access to the IEP and the parental rights that attach to it.” The filing also lists report cards, progress reports, and prior written notices as documents which will often be considered vital and to which LEP parents must have meaningful access.
Therefore, while the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not require an IEP to be translated, educational providers should consider all applicable laws when deciding how to include a non-English-speaking parent in the IEP process. If relying on oral interpretation during a meeting, the schedule should allow enough time for the meeting to include discussion and parental participation, not just interpretation.
The meeting should not be simply “devoted to reading documents out loud.” Further, if a parent later requests a translated copy of the IEP, the DOE/DOJ filing suggests that request should be granted, since “a parent needs meaningful access to the IEP process and regular education documents not just during the IEP meeting, but also across school years to monitor the child’s progress and ensure that IEP services are provided
To view the statement of interest, click here.
For more information or questions, please contact any of our school law attorneys listed below.