At the core of the need for language solutions in schools is the principle of providing equal and meaningful access to educational programs. Federal legislation like Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, which today includes language. Other statutes touching on equal opportunity for children (and their parents) to participate in the educational process include the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, Title III of No Child Left Behind Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Mandates to provide equal access to the benefits of public education are a common theme.
The other main driver for language services is the growth in the limited English proficient (LEP) population. In the United States, where 1 in 5 individuals now speaks a language other than English at home, schools encounter significant language barriers. English language learners (ELL) comprised over 9% (or 4.4 million students) in 2012-2013. In California that number reached 22.8%! These statistics don’t account for LEP parents.
The legislation around language access in schools rests on a central premise: the failure of schools to communicate with parents, in a way they understand, effectively prevents them from participating in their children’s education. This denial of equal opportunity directly impacts the quality of education, which in turn impacts the children’s future. This doubtless has a negative long-term impact on society and the national economy.
In 2015, the US Departments of Justice and Education released fact sheets highlighting the responsibilities of school districts to provide language assistance to LEP parents and guardians, free of charge. These were some key takeaways:
Developing an effective language access program for schools involves significant work for school districts, but the task need not pose a back-to-school nightmare for anyone. Many districts capitalize on the use of existing qualified bilingual staff and call upon competent external resources to fill the gaps.
LanguageLine Solutions offers schools a range of quality language solutions, whether the immediate need is for interpretation, translation or assessing the linguistic skills of bilingual staff. Beyond that we offer complete support for service roll-out and implementation to any type of organization, supported by guides, videos and support tools for staff. Our language access signage informs both students and parents that language access services are available to them at no cost, facilitating communication with staff.
Find out more about how we can help your district develop its language access program by contacting us.