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Deedee: I work with families who are Limited English Proficient, and need interpreters for their IEP meetings. The quality of these interpreters widely varies. The Civil Rights act prohibits discrimination based on country of origin, and Executive Order 13166 clarifies it to include people whose language is not English, and requires they have “meaningful” access to information. My question is, is there a law, or guidance that speaks directly to Interpreters for LEP individuals so that I may better advocate for the use of quality interpreters and translators?

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09/08/2016 10:20 am

Deedee: US DOE issued a Departmental Directive that defines “qualified translator or interpreter.”

Qualified Translator or Interpreter – An in-house or contracted translator or
interpreter who has demonstrated competence to interpret or translate
through court certification or through other professional language skills
assessment certification

Unfortunately, there seem to be a number of “disclaimers” in the directive that may speak to enforcement.

It sounds like you are already familiar with this information. You may find some additional information, and it may be helpful to others, so I’ll post the links below.

(1) US DOE Departmental Directive – To Ensure Meaningful Access to Federally Conducted Services, Programs and Activities for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency

The purpose of this Policy Directive is to ensure ED takes reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce – to the maximum extent practical – limited English proficiency as a barrier to accessing existing Department services, programs, and activities.

This Policy Directive establishes guidelines, consistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, its implementing regulations and guidance documents, and Executive Order 13166, for Department staff to follow when providing services to, or interacting with, individuals who are LEP.

(2) Wrightslaw Way post – Ensuring Meaningful Communication with Parents who have Limited English Proficiency at

(3) DOE Notice to LEP Persons

(4) LEP Resources at LEP. gov

(5) LEP Resources – Education – some court cases here

Hope this helps.

03/14/2017 2:04 pm
Reply to  Wrightslaw

Thank you, this is helpful

09/02/2016 8:07 pm

Unfortunately I read a due process decision where the parent said she had not had full participation because of poor quality interpretation, and she lost. Based on that, my practical suggestion to you would be to try to build up your own list of volunteer interpreters in the community. Local colleges and universities may be a place to look. You may be able to find parents who feel solidarity and would like to help out.

Monolingual speakers frequently don’t get it, how much of a challenge it is to try to function with limited English.

Jill G.
08/30/2016 6:25 pm

Deedee –

IDEA requires school districts to “take whatever action is necessary to ensure
that the parent understands the proceedings of the IEP Team meeting.” Yes, this is actually what it says, at §300.322(e). It goes on to say that this may include interpretation for parents with limited English proficiency.

It seems pretty clear that this should include quality interpretation (which, as someone who also has worked with LEP parents, I know can be hard to find). But how this actually plays out, and how well your state will enforce this, is anyone’s guess.

I echo Chuck in suggesting your local parent center. They can tell you if any additional protections exist at the state level, as well as how you/the parents may object when the district does not meet their obligation.

08/29/2016 12:19 pm

This issue may be addressed by your state rules. Your state parent training & information center can assist you.