DRO, ABLE file complaint with Department of Justice on behalf of Spanish-speaking parents, students

January 27, 2015 / education

Today, Disability Rights Ohio and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of Spanish-speaking students with and without disabilities and their families. The complaint alleges that seven school districts throughout Ohio and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) are failing to provide translated documents and qualified interpreters for students and parents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), as required by federal law.

School districts are legally required to ensure that parents who speak little to no English are able to meaningfully participate in their child’s education. When students and families are unable to participate in the learning process due to a language barrier, it is the school district’s responsibility to provide translations and interpreters.

“The school districts and ODE are failing to provide translation of critical educational documents and appropriate interpreter services,” says Disability Rights Ohio Attorney Kristin Hildebrant. “Their failure makes it nearly impossible for the parents and children in the complainant class to participate in their educational programs. For students with and without disabilities, this can mean not getting the services the children need to succeed in school.”

The complaint asks that the ODE and the school districts be required to adopt policies and procedures that ensure LEP students and families have meaningful educational access. These policies include appropriate training of school district staff; effective identification of language needs of LEP students and parents; a guarantee of qualified, available interpreters and written translation; and monitoring and oversight by ODE. The U.S. Department of Justice will review the complaint and decide whether to conduct an investigation.

Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) is the private, nonprofit organization designated under federal law as Ohio’s system to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and as the Client Assistance Program under the Rehabilitation Act. The mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio.

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self-reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.

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