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Know Your Rights
Source: NY1
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Advocates Say DOE Translation Services Are Falling Short

Under pressure from
immigrant activists, the schools chancellor promised last winter to increase
translation services for non-English speaking parents, but advocates charge the
city effort is falling short. NY1 Education reporter, Michael Meenan, has the

Outside the Brooklyn High School for the Arts, some community activists gave
the Department of Education a failing grade Thursday. They claim the city is
only paying lip service to the need for translation services for parents.

"Based on our surveys and calls to parent coordinators, we found that
generally there really isn’t true and meaningful access now for immigrant
parents," said Jose Davilla of the New
York Immigration Coalition (Make the Road by Walking is a member of the

"They have parents every day who show them report cards, letters from
their school, the blue card, asking them to translate it into Korean,"
said Wayne Ho of Asian American Children & Families.

Through a translator, one Spanish-speaking mother said the policy wasn’t
working for her and her first-grade son.

"Since he started a month ago, they have sent me a lot of papers, but all
of them have been in English," said public school mother Silvia Oreo.

The DOE’s translation unit says it translates over 900 documents into eight
major languages covering 95 percent of students. Although that does not include
sending home a report card in a native language.

Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish – those are five of the languages on
Department of Education literature for parents. A veteran supervisor at a
registration site who did not want to speak on camera said that parents are
getting the language translation services they need. No one is turned away,
there is no discrimination, and parents are able to make the decisions they
need to help their children, said the supervisor.

"French, Creole, Hindi, Arabic, and they provide all the papers, so I
don’t think they discriminate anybody,” said Jackie Rodriguez of Legal
Interpretation Services.

"If I need counseling, if I need help for my son, in Arabic, I find it in
school, and social work [in] Arabic," said public school mother Hanam

In a written statement, a DOE spokeswoman said the school system’s language
translation efforts are "unparalleled" in the nation, and suggesting
otherwise is "false."

The DOE goes on to say: “The Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning and
other senior staff have repeatedly offered their time to the Immigration
Coalition and look forward to working with the Coalition on any issues of

"Unfortunately, I think there is a disconnection between the higher level
officials in the Department of Education and the people in school reaching out
to parents," said Gonzalo Mercado of El Centro de la Hospitalidad.

If in fact the policy just needs a more widespread effort, especially in
Asian-language communities, advocates say they are ready to help DOE officials
pinpoint specific problem schools.