ISBE’s final rules regarding school districts providing interpreters at IEP meetings to support parents whose native language is other than English went into effect on January 22, 2021. The rules set forth the requirements for an individual to be considered a “qualified interpreter” in order to provide interpretation services at an IEP meeting. The rules also create new parent notification and recordkeeping obligations for school districts concerning interpretation services at IEP meetings.

Qualified Interpreter Requirements (23 Ill. Admin. Code § 226.800(l))

The requirements for a “qualified interpreter” under the new ISBE rules are extensive. The individual must meet all school district employment eligibility criteria and demonstrate proficiency in both English and the parent’s native language. An individual can demonstrate proficiency in the languages by passing a State-approved language proficiency test; holding a post-secondary degree taught in the relevant language; possessing the State Seal of Biliteracy; scoring a 4 or higher on an Advanced Placement language test; holding an educator license with stipulations endorsed for transitional bilingual educator or a PEL endorsed in LBS-II/bilingual special education specialist or bilingual education; or possessing a court, medical, or advanced proficiency level interpreter license.

The individual also must complete at least 6 hours of training on special education terminology and protocol (except that individuals who already hold special education licenses, endorsements, or approval are exempt); at least 9 hours of training on interpretation techniques and the role of an interpreter as specified in the rules; and achieve specified minimum scores on oral and written examinations on special education and interpretation. To maintain the designation of qualified interpreter, the individual must participate in at least 6 hours of ongoing professional development related to interpretation once every 2 years in the categories identified in the rules.

If a school district does not currently have an individual who meets the requirements for a qualified interpreter or a qualified interpreter is not available, the school district may use outside vendors, including telephonic interpreters.

Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements (23 Ill. Admin. Code § 226.530)

The new ISBE rules also create several new parent notification and recordkeeping obligations for school districts. School districts must provide the following information annually to all parents of children with disabilities and in each Notice of Conference:

  • Notice to all parents of children eligible for an IEP that interpretation services are available at IEP team meetings;
  • How parents can request an interpreter;
  • Notice that a parent can request that the interpreter serves no other role in the IEP meeting other than as an interpreter, and that the school district should make reasonable efforts to fulfill the request; and
  • A point of contact for any questions or complaints regarding interpretation services.

ISBE is in the process of updating its Notification of Conference form. In the meantime, ISBE is advising school districts to provide parents with the required notifications by other means when sending parents the current Notification of Conference form. For example, a letter to parents included with the Notification of Conference.

School districts also must record:

  • Whether a parent requested an interpreter, previously requested interpreter services, or otherwise indicated that an interpreter was necessary to ensure meaningful parent involvement in the IEP meeting;
  • The language for interpretation;
  • Whether a qualified interpreter was provided for each IEP meeting; and
  • Whether the parent requested that the interpreter only serve in the role of an interpreter at an IEP meeting, as well as whether the school district granted that request.

The new ISBE rules also include updated definitions, including for “interpreter,” “interpretation services,” and “preferred language.” Notably, the language for interpretation services can be in the parent’s native language or any other language requested by parent (with certain exceptions stated in the rules). See 23 Ill. Admin. Code § 226.75.

School districts should carefully review the new ISBE rules for qualified interpreters, as well as for parent notification and recordkeeping, to ensure they are in compliance with the new requirements and provide opportunities for meaningful participation at IEP meetings for parents whose native language is other than English. Additional information from ISBE regarding the new qualified interpreter rules is available here.

If you have any questions regarding the use of interpreters at IEP meetings and the new ISBE rules, please contact Jennifer Rosenberg, Jessica Nguyen, or any attorney in our Students/Special Education practice group.

Source: 23 Ill. Admin. Code §§ 226.75, 226.530, 226.800(l)