Did you know language access in schools is a legal requirement in the US?

This is actually a legal requisite in the US. Here’s the checklist. 

The Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensures that students who are learning English have equal opportunity to progress academically. This makes sense since there are 41 million immigrants in the United States. Student legal protections and Immigrant rights are only common sense. Therefore, schools have a very clear checklist they should abide by in regards to language access and rights. 

In 2015, more than 4.8 million students enrolled in U.S. public schools were English Language Learners (ELL). In Pittsburgh Public Schools only, nearly 50 different languages and dialects are spoken. And it is widespread knowledge that children cannot be denied their right to free public education. Therefore those with limited English proficiency must be provided with language instruction.  


Ah, yes. Schools and to do’s take us straight to thinking about the kids. But it’s just as important for parents, maybe even more. Think about all the PTA meetings, extracurricular activities, and difficult conversations during in person meetings with school officials. Parents need to make informed choices about their children’s education. And 4.8 million students who are English Learners most likely mean 9.6 million parents give or take who are also not proficient. And who will likely find it even harder to learn than their kids.   

This is why, for example, In Virginia, the Arlington Public Schools provide written language translation and oral interpretation services in Arabic, Amharic, Bengali, Mongolian and Spanish. These languages are the five main non-English languages spoken by children who attend the Arlington schools. So they make sure no one misses the memo. 

The New York City Department of Education also has a Translation and Interpretation Unit. They chose this alternative as a solution to provide New York City public schools and offices with internal resources for language translation. This includes written translation, on-site interpretation, and over-the-phone interpretation services. 

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash 


To not take the role of their parents. Children should not carry the unmediated weight of heavy decisions and crucial conversations about what respects their education. If they are not doing well at school, if there is trouble with classmates, if there is a camping trip and a series of forms should be taken care of… all of these are not a child’s responsibility. They should not be the ones mediating between their school and their parents. Language experts should, so parents can talk it over with their kids or make decisions. This is to remind schools that even if the child isn’t, parents can be limited to English proficiency and need this service. 

Also, there are cases where multilingual classroom assistants are brought into play. So there are also equal opportunities to what concerns understanding during class until the English level is more or less balanced. 

For all this, language instruction is important. And language instruction must be carried out by language experts.  


All this leads to the ultimate question: what’s on the checklist?  

One document that always comes in handy is the US Department of Justice Fact Sheet

This fact sheet answers common questions about the rights of parents and guardians who do not speak, listen, read, or write English proficiently. It explains how, for example, schools must provide information in a language they can understand. This includes information related to things such as registration and enrollment in school, gifted and talented programs, student discipline policies, special education, and more.  

Also, schools must notify in writing within 30 days of the school year starting with information about the students’ English language proficiency level, programs, and services available to each educational need and right.  

To make all this more orderly, it ponders on how School districts must develop and implement a process for determining whether parents are limited English proficiency and which are their language needs. 

The need for education translation services, of course, depends on the area you live in and on the percentage of the population speaking another language than English. The larger the population, the bigger the need for translated materials. 

There are cases like public schools in Nebraska, which face staff shortages and have decided to turn bilingual high school students into interpreters. The Omaha school district has some 100 different languages, and more than 18,000 students have received services for limited English speakers at some time while in the district. Lisa Utterback, the district’s chief student and community services officer, explained student interpreters go through the same application process and training as non-student interpreters. So they are making their language experts, but it’s not ideal.  

If your school needs interpretation and translation services, our language experts are ideal. Contact us at Stillman, we can help.