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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Pubs & Reports

Silenced Partners

About this Report:

For years, immigrant parents have suffered from inadequate translation and interpretation services at New York City’s public schools.  The 2000 Census reports that 47% of all New York City households speak a language other than English in the home.  One out of every four New Yorkers does not speak English.  In vibrant immigrant communities like Bushwick, Brooklyn, these numbers are even higher.  As the City’s demographics have shifted over the years, complaints about obstacles to involvement of immigrant parents in their children’s education have intensified.  The consequences of this national origin discrimination for New York City children and parents are severe.

During the spring of 2004, Spanish-speaking members and organizers from Make the Road by Walking interviewed 235 Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents at eleven Bushwick schools to ascertain the scope of the problem.  We initiated this survey because of parent concerns about the lack of access to appropriate language assistance services at a local middle school, IS 291, and the failure of regional and local school officials to intervene and address the problem effectively. We were dismayed to find widespread problems across the schools in our neighborhood.  While parents at all schools reported problems, the level of discrimination varied widely from school to school.  Some schools are providing written notices in Spanish but are failing to provide interpretation at parent conferences.  Some schools have interpretation services for PTA meetings but inappropriately rely on students to interpret for parents at other times.  Some schools are failing to provide language assistance services across the board.

Silenced Partners summarizes the results of these interviews, and includes a brief summary of the City, State and federal laws and policies that require language assistance services for LEP New Yorkers.