Interpretation and Translation
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.
Relevant Laws & Guidance
- Title VI regulations
- Chapter 28A.642 RCW
- Chapter 392-190 WAC
- OSPI Civil Rights Guidelines: Translation and Interpretation Services (Note: These guidelines are currently under revision)
- OSPI Bulletin B021-13 Civil Rights Requirements to Provide Interpretation and Translation Services
- OCR Dear Colleague Letter: Ensuring English Learner Students Can Participate Meaningfully and Equally in Educational Programs (2015) (see pages 37–39) | Fact Sheet
- U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons (2002)
Language Access Planning
Developing a language access plan is critical to ensuring that your school district communicates effectively with families with limited-English proficiency.
- WSSDA model Language Access Plan: Policy 4218 | Procedure 4218P
- DOJ Language Access Assessment and Planning Tool for Federally Conducted and Federally Assisted Programs (2011)
- The Language Access Self-Assessment serves to help identify a current baseline of language access services and to inform the creation of a language access plan.
Language Access Service Evaluation Templates
Beginning with the 2023-24 school year, districts are to provide participants in interpreted initial IEPs, annual IEPs, or disciplinary reengagement meetings an opportunity to provide feedback on the effectiveness of interpretation and language access services. This template can be used for those purposes. It may be adapted as appropriate by the district.
English | Amharic | Arabic | Bosnian | Burmese | Chinese (Simplified) | Chinese (Traditional) | Dari | Farsi | French | Hindi | Hmong | Llocano | Japanese | Karen | Khmer (Cambodian) | Korean | Laotian | Nepali | Oromo | Pashto | Portuguese | Punjabi | Romanian | Russian | Malayalam | Samoan | Somali | Spanish | Swahili | Tagalog | Tamil | Telugu | Thai | Tigrinya | Turkish | Ukrainian | Urdu | Vietnamese
Glossary of Education Terms
See a Glossary of common Education Terms in Washington state. Please note, we are currently in the process of updating the glossaries and making them available in more languages.
Identifying Parents' Language Assistance Needs
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 translated in 40 languages
- Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) English Learner Tool Kit: Ensuring Meaningful Communication with Limited English Proficient Parents
Informing Families About Their Rights
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) - English
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.
Amharic | Arabic | Cambodian | Chinese | French | Hindi | Japanese | Korean | Marshallese | Punjabi | Romanian | Russian | Samoan | Somali | Spanish | Tagalog | Telugu | Tigrinya | Ukrainian | Urdu | Vietnamese
- 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.
- 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
Interpreters & Translators
- Master Contract for Phone Interpretation Services
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. With a phone interpreter, school staff can communicate with families who need assistance through an interpreter on the phone. This service can also be used for in-person meetings with the interpreter on speaker phone.
- Master Contract for Written Translation Services
The Department of Enterprise Services has a contract for written translation that schools and districts can arrange to use.
- Qualified, Competent Interpreters and 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 interpret in and out of English (e.g., consecutive or simultaneous interpreting). Schools should ensure that interpreters and 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 interpreters and translators are trained on the role of an interpreter or translator, the ethics of interpreting or translating, and the need to maintain confidentiality.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can a student or child be asked to interpret or translate?
No. Schools may not rely on or ask students, siblings, or other children to interpret for parents. It is the school’s obligation to plan for and provide competent, adult interpreters and translators to communicate with parents.
- What types of information must be translated?
School districts must ensure meaningful communication with LEP parents in a language they understand and adequately notify LEP parents of information about any program, service, or activity of the school district that is called to the attention of non-LEP parents.
At the school and district levels, this essential information includes but is not limited to information regarding:
- Language assistance programs,
- Special education and related services,
- IEP meetings,
- Grievance procedures,
- Notices of nondiscrimination,
- Student discipline policies and procedures,
- Registration and enrollment,
- Report cards,
- Requests for parent permission for student participation in district or school activities,
- Parent-teacher conferences,
- Parent handbooks,
- Gifted and talented programs,
- Magnet and charter schools, and
- Any other school and program choice options.
Schools must translate this essential information when a significant percentage of the population in a school or school district needs the information in a language other than English. For less common languages, the district must still ensure that LEP parents are timely notified of the availability of free, qualified interpreters who can explain district- and school-related information that is communicated in writing to parents.
School and districts may also be required to provide written translations of specific types of documents under different laws, including but not limited to, certain student discipline or special education notices.
- Can a school use machine translations like Google Translate?
Using web-based automatic translators (e.g., Google Translate) is appropriate only if: (1) the translated document accurately conveys the meaning of the source document, including accurate translations of technical vocabulary; and (2) the translation is reviewed and edited by someone qualified to do so.
Resources & Support
- "I Speak" Language Identification Flashcard (U.S. Census Bureau)
- Quality Indicators for Translation and Interpretation in K-12 (California Department of Education)
- 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)
- Language Access and Bilingualism (Washington State Governor's Office of the Education Ombuds [OEO])
- Communicating Effectively with Limited English Proficient Individuals (YouTube, U.S. Department of Justice)