USDOE-DOJ Issue Joint Guidance on Serving English Learners


On January 7, 2015 the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance related to serving English Learners (ELs). This guidance pulls together information related to requirements to serve ELs from many sources, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related court cases, the Equal Education Opportunities Act, and Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Based on information from the guidance document, TransACT has modified its Parent-Teacher Conference Letter. The letter had a check box that offered the option for parents to bring their own translator/interpreter. This option has now been removed based on this guidance.

What you need to know:

The guidance from USED and DOJ discusses “Ensuring Meaningful Communication with Limited English Proficient Parents”, and reinforces the requirement for districts to provide interpretation/translation services. On page 39 it says, “school districts should ensure that interpreters and translators are trained on the role of an interpreter and translator, the ethics of interpreting and translating, and the need to maintain confidentiality.”

According to this guidance, translators and interpreters are required to be trained for this role. Since translation/interpretation is the requirement of the district, and since inclusion of this option could have resulted in parents bringing untrained translators/interpreters, TransACT decided to remove this option in order to avoid the potential for a civil rights violation.

Parents may still bring their own translator/interpreter if they would like, but the district is responsible for ensuring that this person is properly trained.


For questions or comments, please contact

Alyssa Thornley

About The Author

Alyssa Thornley has spent her career working to support schools and communities in providing opportunity to all students. In positions as a teacher, professional development coordinator, and as a volunteer, she has focused on the community’s role in education, and in designing efficient programs that work for diverse needs. Alyssa leads TransACT’s customer engagement and market strategy efforts, and works to ensure innovative programs, guidance, and thought leadership from across the country’s districts are being shared and spread.