A Request for Information published in the Federal Register on February 8, 2023, is seeking comments on interpreters and translators in educational settings. Comments must be submitted to the US Dept. of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) on or before March 27, 2023 via regulations.gov.

According to the announcement, “OELA’s stakeholders within the educational community have expressed concerns that the communication that takes place between educators, students, parents, families, and legal guardians may be adversely impacted if an interpreter or translator is not prepared to navigate the intricacies of “student pathway to success” meetings (e.g., meetings that address Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs), Section 504 plans, disciplinary action, or extracurricular or advanced learning opportunities).”

Thus, OELA invites stakeholders who are aware of policies and practices that are specifically relevant to interpreters and translators in all education settings to address a series of questions when submitting comments.

The issue of inadequate provision of/access to translators for parents in special education communications has been the subject of state complaints, class-action law suits and other civil rights litigation for many years. Some of these activities have resulted in significant efforts, such as:
– In 2021 the Illinois state board of education passed final rules regarding school districts providing interpreters at IEP meetings to support parents whose native language is other than English.
– A recent legal settlement requires Chicago Public Schools to offer translation services to parents of students with disabilities.
– The Washington state legislature recently passed Ch. 107, which requires schools to develop language access plans and more.

The U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs has not opined on this issue (with regard to IEP translation) since this statement in 2016 related to a law suit. So, in addition to comments to OELA, it might be time to ask OSEP to provide states with guidance and remind them of the responsibility in IDEA federal regulations at 34 CFR 300.322(e) which states: “The public agency must take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of the IEP Team meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents with deafness or whose native language is other than English.”

Get your comments into OELA by March 27, 2023, especially if you have good policies and practices to share! Go here to comment.