In Garcia et. al. v. Morath, et. al., 122 LRP 29203, (W.D. Tex. 2022) Plaintiffs alleged that they had been denied...
In Garcia et. al. v. Morath, et. al., 122 LRP 29203, (W.D. Tex. 2022) Plaintiffs alleged that they had been denied “appropriate translation and interpretation services depriving each mother of the information she needed to make fully informed decisions about, and to meaningfully participate in, the special education process for her child.” The TEA defendants moved to dismiss all claims. At issue is the state requirement to provide translation services as stated in Tex. Educ. Code § 29.005(d), which provides:
If the child’s parent is unable to speak English, the district shall:
(1) provide the parent with a written or audiotaped copy of the child’s individualized education program translated into Spanish if Spanish is the parent’s native language; or
(2) if the parent’s native language is a language other than Spanish, make a good faith effort to provide the parent with a written or audiotaped copy of the child’s individualized education program translated into the parent’s native language.
In ruling on the motion to dismiss, the court considered the state requirements as reflected in Tex. Educ. Code 29.005 and state regulations and compared them with federal requirements for providing translation service.
Plaintiffs argued the Texas standard provided them translation only if they were unable to speak any English whatsoever, but if — like Plaintiffs — a LEP parent speaks a few words of English, they “may be denied many or all of those services.”
TEA argued that even if their rules on translation matched the federal rule verbatim, Plaintiffs had not shown that LEAs (Local Education Agencies) would comply and provide appropriate translation and interpretation services.
The court was not persuaded and placed the responsibility for promulgating rules implementing and enforcing IDEA requirements on TEA. Both the TEA and school districts were responsible and liable for taking, “whatever action is necessary to ensure that the parent understands the proceedings of the IEP Team meeting, including arranging for an interpreter for parents with deafness or whose native language is other than English.” 34 C.F.R. § 300.322(e).
While this is not a final decision in the case, districts should be asking special education parents whose native language is other than English if they need translation services.
Even if they speak some English, if their native language is not English and they request translation services, such services should be provided. It should also be noted that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on national origin requires recipients of federal funding to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that LEP individuals have “meaningful access” to their activities and programs.
An agency provides meaningful access to its programs when the language assistance provided is accurate, timely and effective and is at no cost to the Limited English Proficient individual. Accordingly, whether under IDEA or under Title VI, school districts have a legal obligation to ensure access and an equal opportunity to participate in school activities, which may require schools to provide language translation services. Should questions arise regarding requirements of the law or other special education legal requirements, please contact Leon Alcala, PLLC for additional guidance.
Author: Hans Graff