Richmond Schools Develop Policies for Non-English Speakers

Aug 19, 2014

Richmond Public Schools are making it easier for non-English speaking parents and their students to have full access to education. 

It started with a Spanish-speaking parent whose middle school-age child faced expulsion.

“She wasn’t able to appeal or provide additional information because her notice was sent in English.”

Jeree Thomas is an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center which filed a complaint against Richmond Public Schools with the U. S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.  It said the division was violating federal Civil Rights law by not providing the information in a way the parent could understand. 

The division agreed to resolve the complaint immediately by not asking for Social Security numbers on enrollment forms which might make parents uncomfortable.

“By the end of November they’re going to review all their school discipline records to make sure that if there was a limited English proficient student or parent that they had access to notices and to hearings in their own language.” 

Thomas says those that didn’t will have access to a new hearing. She says school administrators are realizing they have to adapt to the needs of non-English speakers as the population grows.  But such policies have been in place in Roanoke County schools for several years. 

Joe LeGault is the division’s English Coordinator and says during enrollment, students who know a language other than English are flagged so they can receive help, such as special classes, if needed.

“Last year we had a situation at a middle school and we had all the documentation translated into that family’s native language and we had interpreters there for every step of the process."

LeGault says because the system was already in place, the family was able to feel comfortable in what could have been a highly-emotional situation.