The Office of Language Services offers language assistance to the district, schools, staff and families who are not proficient in the English language. Effective, inclusive and caring communication enables schools and staff to work together with families to ensure each student’s success. By bridging language barriers, we engage families and increase involvement, encouraging parents and guardians to partner with Henry County Schools as we work toward our common goal of academic achievement for every student.
US school districts are mandated by the US Department of Education-Office of Civil Rights, Department of Justice-Civil Rights Division and other Federal Programs to provide free, qualified language assistance to parents and guardians with limited English proficiency.
Our office houses a Language Access Facilitator (Spanish) and a Bilingual Community Liaison (Spanish) to assist with all language service needs at the Central Office and throughout Henry County Schools.
Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents are parents or guardians whose primary language is other than English and who have limited English proficiency in one of the four domains of language proficiency (speaking, listening, reading, or writing). School districts and SEAs have an obligation to ensure meaningful communication with LEP parents in a language they can understand and to adequately notify LEP parents of information about any program, service, or activity of a school district or SEA that is called to the attention of non-LEP parents. At the school and district levels, this essential information includes but is not limited to information regarding: language assistance programs, special education and related services, IEP meetings, grievance procedures, notices of nondiscrimination, student discipline policies and procedures, registration and enrollment, report cards, requests for parent permission for student participation in district or school activities, parent-teacher conferences, parent handbooks, gifted and talented programs, magnet and charter schools, and any other school and program choice options.
School districts must develop and implement a process for determining whether parents are LEP and what their language needs are. It is important for schools to take parents at their word about their communication needs if they request language assistance and to keep in mind that parents can be LEP even if their child is proficient in English.
SEAs and school districts must provide language assistance to LEP parents effectively with appropriate, competent staff – or appropriate and competent outside resources. It is not sufficient for the staff merely to be bilingual. For example, some bilingual staff and community volunteers may be able to communicate directly with LEP parents in a different language, but not be competent to interpret in and out of English (e.g., consecutive or simultaneous interpreting), or to translate documents. School districts should ensure that interpreters and translators have knowledge in both languages of any specialized terms or concepts to be used in the communication at issue. In addition, school districts should ensure that interpreters and translators are trained on the role of an interpreter and translator, the ethics of interpreting and translating, and the need to maintain confidentiality.
Some examples of when the Departments have found compliance issues regarding communication with LEP parents include when school districts: (1) rely on students, siblings, friends, or untrained school staff to translate or interpret for parents; (2) fail to provide translation or an interpreter at IEP meetings, parent-teacher conferences, enrollment or career fairs, or disciplinary proceedings; (3) fail to provide information notifying LEP parents about a school’s programs, services, and activities in a language the parents can understand; or (4) fail to identify LEP parents.¹
¹From: Office of Civil Rights, Dear Colleague Letter: English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents (01/7/2015)