Know the Rights of Multilingual Parents this School Conference Season

Know the Rights of Multilingual Parents this School Conference Season
March 3, 2024

As the school conference season is upon us, it’s time to shed light on an issue often unnoticed: language barriers in educational settings. For many families, especially those who speak languages other than English at home, navigating the school system can be challenging. 

Picture this: a parent attends a parent-teacher conference, eager to discuss their child’s progress. However, they struggle to understand the information being shared because it’s not provided in a language they understand. Or, the child is put in the situation of being responsible and accountable for interpreting their own parent-teacher conference. These scenarios are all too familiar for many multilingual families across the country.

But did you know that schools are legally obligated to provide information to parents in a language they can understand? According to the Department of Justice’s guidelines for Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents and guardians, schools must communicate vital information in various areas, including parent-teacher conferences, in languages other than English if necessary.

What Else Must be Translated?

On top of providing language services during parent-teacher conferences, many other aspects of year-round communication must be considered, per the Department of Justice’s guidelines. This list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Registration and enrollment in school, including procedures
  • Grievance procedures and notices of school programs nondiscrimination
  • Language assistance programs provided by the school
  • Access to parent handbooks
  • Distribution of report cards
  • Information about gifted and talented programs
  • Student discipline policies and procedures
  • Details about magnet and charter schools
  • Special education services and related procedures
  • Requests for parental permission for meetings regarding special education student participation in school activities
  • Parent-teacher conferences and communication involved in these interactions

Whenever a program, service, or activity is called to the attention of parents with limited English proficiency, schools must communicate the information to them in a language they can understand.

Can Students Translate for Their Families?

As a fundamental principle, children should not be burdened with the responsibility of translating for their parents, even if they possess proficiency in English. According to the Department of Justice’s guidelines, schools must provide language services to families who request them. This includes access to professional interpreters and translators who possess the requisite skills and training to ensure accurate and culturally sensitive communication. By availing themselves of these services, schools can uphold their commitment to DEIB, ensuring all families have equitable access to information and opportunities within the educational system.

The Myth of Bilingualism

Contrary to popular belief, being bilingual doesn’t automatically qualify someone, such as school faculty or staff, to interpret or translate in a school setting. Interpreting and translating in an educational context requires specialized knowledge and training in ethics, confidentiality, and technical terminology. Schools need to ensure that language assistance is provided by trained individuals with the appropriate certifications through reliable resources, such as a professional language service company. 

Trust INGCO This School Conference Season

INGCO’s mission is to provide equal access to information through language services. We offer a range of services tailored to meet the diverse linguistic needs of schools and districts, including professional interpretation and translation.

As we approach school conference season, let’s commit to ensuring that all families have equal access to information and educational opportunities regardless of their linguistic background. By providing comprehensive language assistance and adhering to legal guidelines, schools can create an inclusive environment where every parent can actively participate in their child’s education.

Contact INGCO today to learn how our language services can support your school in promoting equity in education and fostering meaningful communication with all families.