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MAC staff and supporters testified on Wednesday, 9/4/19 in support of legislation related to spoken language interpreters in educational settings. Pictured, left to right: Loreto P. Ansaldo, community interpreter; Angelica Bachour, President of Chelsea SEPAC; Diana Santiago, MAC Senior Attorney; Erin Stewart, MAC Legal intern; Margalit Tepper, MIRA Coalition; Bertha Elena Rojas, MABE Board of Directors; Phyllis Hardy, MABE. Bernardo Llorente of Framingham Public Schools, Laura Massie of Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, Representative Tram Nguyen, and Katherine Tarpley of Children’s Law Center of MA are not pictured but also testified in support of the bill.

New bill directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to create standards and competencies for the training, hiring and use of interpreters in educational settings

What happens when schools and parents have important information to communicate with each other – like a student’s special education needs, medical emergencies in school, or discipline matters – and the parent has limited English proficiency?

Federal and state law require that school districts provide parents with a language interpreter to make this communication possible. But that doesn’t mean the interpreter is always trained, knowledgeable about educational terminology, or even sufficiently fluent in the language to be able to provide effective interpretation services. This poses a significant barrier to educational opportunity and success for children of parents with limited English proficiency (LEP).

The standards and competencies that DESE would create for the training, hiring and use of interpreters in educational settings under An Act Relative to Certification of Interpreters in Educational Settings (House Bill 417/Senate Bill 347) would provide parents with LEP and students with competent interpretation services. The lead sponsors of the bill are Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral and Senator James T. Welch.

A DESE-led task force, with members appointed representing MAC, school district and special education administrators, parents, educators, and experts in interpretation, recently reached consensus on a set of recommendations for the skills, competencies, and assessments necessary to ensure that interpreters in schools meet minimum professional standards. DESE will be presenting the recommendations to the legislature for consideration.

On Wednesday, MAC staff and supporters testified at the State House in support of this legislation. MAC staff will continue to follow up with DESE and the legislature to advocate for the bill with amendments to reflect the recommendations of the Task Force.

Follow MAC on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this bill and it continues to move through the legislative process.