Wake schools settlement promises help for parents with limited English

tgoldsmith@newsobserver.com March 7, 2013 

Parents who don’t speak English well should receive better communication, translated documents and other help under a settlement between the Wake County public schools and the federal education department’s Office for Civil Rights.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Advocates for Children’s Services filed a complaint in June on behalf of parents who were having difficulty communicating with the system. In a statement Thursday announcing the resolution, Wake schools said it has taken numerous steps to make sure that people with limited English proficiency, referred to as LEP, can communicate effectively with the system.

“We really appreciate the thought and effort that the district put into the development of the Language Assistance Plan and the district’s obvious commitment to improving access to information for its LEP parents,” said Martha Russo, attorney for the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

However, an attorney with Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said Thursday that the plaintiffs haven’t seen a copy of the agreement and that parents continue to have problems communicating with the system.

“We appreciate the districts’ efforts, but we still have a lot of clients that are struggling with language access,” said attorney Peggy Nicholson.

Parents with limited English proficiency are still having problems getting documents in Spanish and still go to schools to request language services, Nicholson said.

Efforts to reach Wake schools about the Advocates for Children’s Services response were not successful Thursday.

According to the Wake schools’ statement, the agreement calls for:

•  The identification of parents with limited English, along with the language they speak;

•  Spreading the word about the availability of free translation and interpretation services;

•  The translation of dozens of system documents into other languages and

•  Continued access to translators for parent meetings, including those on individualized education programs, or IEPs, and on services for students with disabilities.

Goldsmith: 919-829-8929

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