New OCR Resolution Agreement in Ohio Addresses the Translation of Special Education Documents

By December 6, 2016 News No Comments

On September 23, 2016, Columbus City Schools (“District”) submitted a voluntary Resolution Agreement to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights regarding the translation of special education documents for parents classified as limited-English proficient (“LEP”).  The Agreement lays forth both individual remedies and district remedies specifically designed to address past failures by the District regarding requests from students’ parents for translators and/or translated documents.

Under the individual remedies section of the Resolution Agreement, which was to be implemented by October 31, 2016, the District agreed to provide LEP parents with Spanish translations of vital documentation related to eligibility and placement decisions made by the students’ IEP and/or Section 504 teams during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.  These vital documents will include, at a minimum, a copy of the IEP and/or Section 504 plan.  Furthermore, the District agreed to notify each LEP parent, in Spanish, that they may make a request to the District to convene an IEP and/or Section 504 meeting, at which the District will provide qualified Spanish interpreter services.  The ultimate purpose of the meeting is to review each student’s existing IEP and/or Section 504 plan with the parents, to allow the parents to ask questions about the placement decision, and to permit the student’s parents to provide any input that they were unable to provide during the most recent IEP and/or Section 504 meeting, due to language barriers.

Furthermore, under the district remedies section of the Resolution Agreement, which is to be implemented by December 2, 2016, the District agrees to develop a written plan designed to provide language assistance to LEP parents to ensure that they have meaningful access to the District’s programs and activities.  The written plan will include a process for identifying and translating vital written documents into the language of each “frequently-encountered LEP parent group” eligible to be served and/or likely to be affected by the District’s programs or activities.  While the Resolution Agreement does not define “frequently-encountered LEP parent group,” the language suggests that the District is obligated to provide translation services for parents who speak languages other than Spanish, so long as a sufficient number of other parents within the District also speak that same language.

The written plan also is to include, among other things, a process for: (1) identifying LEP parents who may need language assistance; (2) obtaining qualified translators and interpreters; and (3) notifying district staff, on an annual basis, that the use of family members and friends for the provision of language assistance is generally not acceptable.  Furthermore, the written plan will include a system for maintaining a master list which contains the name of every LEP parent in the District.

While this Agreement is only binding for Columbus City Schools, it nonetheless reflects OCR’s current position regarding school district obligations for schools to adequately address requests from LEP parents for the translation of special education documents.

Contact Jennifer Mueller or Michelle Todd with your student document translation inquiries.

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