State Politics

NC bill would require massage therapists to speak English

A bill filed in the N.C. Senate would require massage therapists to speak English in order to get a license from the state.

Senate Bill 158 was filed by Republican Sen. Bill Cook. The bill would add “English proficiency” as a requirement for massage and bodywork therapist licensure.

The bill is meant to be a “technical correction” to add the qualification to six other specific qualifications to receive a license.

The line “The applicant demonstrates satisfactory proof of proficiency in the English language” would be added to a list of requirements for massage therapy licensure, according to the bill.

The requirement was already on the books for therapists who are licensed, certified or registered under laws of another jurisdiction. Those therapists could practice in North Carolina with the N.C. Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy’s endorsement as long as they met a set of requirements that included English proficiency. The requirement was not included in the list of requirements for North Carolina applicants.

It was assumed that North Carolina applicants would be proficient in English because state statute mandates they complete a training program at a board-approved school and pass a competency assessment. It was assumed that those would require English proficiency for students to successfully graduate and pass the exam, according to a letter from Holly Foster, chairwoman of the N.C. Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy.

“Therefore, the qualification that the applicant be proficient in the English language was not added,” according to Foster’s letter. “Adding the qualification ... will make the English proficiency qualification consistent ... and will clarify that English proficiency is required to obtain any license to practice massage and bodywork therapy in North Carolina.”

The letter says public protection requires that a person seeking to be licensed should be proficient in English so the therapist and client can communicate verbally and in writing to meet the requirements of the law governing massage therapists and the board’s rules, as well as be aware of medical and health issues before, during and after treatments.

Cook represents Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett