Interpretation and Translation Services
Under state and federal law, all parents have the right to information about their child’s education in a language they can understand.
Title VI Regulations | Chapter 28A.642 RCW | Chapter 392-190 WAC
Parents’ Rights: Interpretation and Translation Services (OSPI)
Fact Sheet: Information for Limited-English Proficient Parents (U.S. Department of Education)
Chinese (simplified and traditional) |
You are an important part of your child’s education!
Your child’s school should communicate with you—in your language—about your child’s education. This often includes translated documents and a language interpreter for meetings and conversations. You have the right to these services even if you speak some English and even if your child can speak or read in English.
The school should communicate with you in your language about important information and opportunities for your child. This includes information about:
- Registration and enrollment in school
- Grades, academic standards, and graduation
- School rules and student discipline
- Attendance, absences, and withdrawal
- Parent permission for activities or programs
- School closures
- Opportunities to access programs or services—including highly capable, advanced placement, and English language learner programs
- Special education and services for students with disabilities
Meetings and conversations with teachers and school employees
When you talk with teachers or school employees, the school should offer an interpreter if you need one. This includes parent–teacher conferences, meetings about special education, or any other conversations about your child’s education.
The school should only use competent interpreters who are fluent in English and in your language. The school should make sure interpreters understand any terms or concepts that will be used during the meeting. The school should not use students or children as interpreters.
The interpreter should be neutral and should communicate everything said during the conversation. They should not omit or add to what anyone says. The school should make sure interpreters understand their role and the need to keep information confidential. The interpreter might be in person or on the phone and might be district staff or an outside contractor.
The school should translate important written information into the most common languages spoken in your school district. If you receive information that is not in your language, please let the school know if you would like it translated in writing or explained orally to you in your language.
Questions, Concerns, Complaints
A discussion with your school principal, or civil rights coordinator at the school district, is often the best step to address your concerns. Explain what happened, and let the principal or coordinator know what they can do to help resolve the problem.
If you cannot resolve the concern or disagreement this way, you can file a complaint.
Schools must communicate with all parents in a language they can understand. This includes notifying limited-English proficient parents—in a language they can understand—about all programs, services, and activities that are called to the attention of other parents.
WSSDA Language Access Policy and Procedure
School districts must have a process to determine parents’ language needs, such as a home language survey or questions on an enrollment form about each parent’s language needs. Make sure the enrollment form or home language survey is provided to every parent in a language they can understand.
OSPI Home Language Survey — in 37 languages
Schools should take steps to inform parents that free translation and interpretation services are available and how to request these services.
Parents’ Rights: Interpretation and Translation Services (School Template)
Schools can personalize these materials to inform families about their rights. This version has space for your district or school to include information about who to contact if parents have questions or concerns about language services. Schools can include this information in parent and student handbooks, make these materials available in the front office, or pass the information out to parents in back-to-school packets.
Poster: We Can Help You in Your Language!
Use this multi-language poster to inform families how to request an interpreter or a translated document.
School staff should offer an interpreter whenever requested by a parent or when school staff anticipate an interpreter might be needed to meaningfully communicate about their child. This includes parent–teacher conferences, meetings about special education, or any other conversations about a student’s education.
Never use students or minor children as interpreters! Parents may voluntarily choose to decline the district’s offer of an interpreter and choose instead to rely on an adult friend or relative for interpretation services, but school staff should never suggest this as an alternative to providing appropriate language services.
Qualified, Competent Interpreters
Schools must provide language assistance to limited-English proficient families effectively with appropriate, competent staff—or appropriate and competent outside resources. It is not sufficient for the staff merely to be bilingual. For example, some bilingual staff and community volunteers may be able to communicate directly with limited-English proficient families in a different language, but not be competent to interpret in and out of English (e.g., consecutive or simultaneous interpreting). Schools should ensure that interpreters have knowledge in both languages of any specialized terms or concepts to be used in the communication at issue. In addition, schools should ensure that interpreters are trained on the role of an interpreter, the ethics of interpreting, and the need to maintain confidentiality.
With a phone interpreter, school staff can communicate with families who need
language assistance through an interpreter on the phone. This service can also be used for in-person meetings with the interpreter on speaker phone.
The Department of Enterprise Services has a contract for phone interpretation that schools or districts can arrange to use. Once a school or district has set up an account, users can access interpreters in more than 170 different languages, 24 hours a day, every day of the year (no appointment needed). The interpreter can even listen and identify the language that the parent is speaking. Cost varies between $0.54 and $0.69 per minute.
School districts should identify and translate all vital documents into languages that are common in each school. If a small number of parents require the information in a language other than English, the district must still provide the information to parents in a language they can understand, such as through oral interpretation of the document.
Web- or computer-based automated translation is only appropriate if the translated document accurately conveys the meaning of the document. To ensure that the information has been accurately translated, the district must have machine translations reviewed, and edited as needed, by a qualified translator.
Qualified, Competent Translators
Schools must provide language assistance to limited-English proficient families effectively with appropriate, competent staff—or appropriate and competent outside resources. It is not sufficient for the staff merely to be bilingual. For example, some bilingual staff and community volunteers may be able to communicate directly with limited-English proficient families in a different language, but not be competent to translate documents. Schools should ensure that translators have knowledge in both languages of any specialized terms or concepts to be used in the communication at issue. In addition, schools should ensure that translators are trained on the role of a translator, the ethics of translating, and the need to maintain confidentiality.
The Department of Enterprise Services has a contract for written translation that schools and districts can arrange to use. Category 8 of the contract provides special pricing for education-related documents—ranging from $0.12 to $0.30 per word.
Important Document Notice
If a situation arises when a school is unable to translate a document immediately, consider including a notice on the document, translated into the parent’s primary language (e.g. on pre-printed stickers) informing families that they can contact the school to have the document translated.
Sample Important Document Notice—in 22 languages
Schools should also make sure other staff, including front office staff, counselors, and teachers, know how to access an interpreter or translated documents when needed, and how to communicate effectively using an interpreter.
Communicating Effectively with Limited English Proficient Individuals (YouTube, U.S. Department of Justice)
Civil Rights Protections for English Language Learners (MP4)
"I Speak" Language Identification Flashcard (U.S. Census Bureau)
Quality Indicators for Translation and Interpretation in K-12 (California Department of Education)
LEP.gov LEP.gov is a clearinghouse of information, tools, and resources regarding language services.
When “Practicable” and “Feasible” May Mean “Mandatory”: The Rights of Limited English Proficient Parents (Univ. of North Carolina School Law Bulletin)
Federal Policy and Guidance