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Interpreter Issues in School

Fighting for Interpreting Services


Updated April 25, 2009

Do Research
Do your research. How many interpreters are there in the school. How many deaf children. How many interpreters are there in the school system, in the county? What are their credentials? Is the school advertising interpreting positions currently? What is the pay scale offered? What are the exact hours Sally would need an interpreter? Compare what your county is offering with other nearby counties in your state. Contact the school for the deaf in your state and the Gallaudet regional center to see if they can offer any advice.


Utilize the IEP
Your most important tool in all of this will be the IEP. That is the legal document that governs the services Sally needs and will receive. It is an instrument, that per the new IDEA 2004, must be developed with you the parent and will document what services must be provided. Hopefully, the services of interpreters have already been identified. It should also list when or at least the amount of time (sometimes it will say something like full-time, or during all school and after-school activities, etc.). If for some reason the interpreting services are not listed on the IEP, you will need to call a new IEP meeting ( you do this with a simple letter requesting an IEP review) and have it added to the IEP.

If it is listed, and not being provided, you need to provide, in writing, that you expect the service provided. Keep the letter very professional and to the point. Indicate that your child communicates in Sign Language, that it has been determined that your child's recommended placement was/is in the mainstream setting and therefore a full-time SL interpreter must be provided. Copy the Director of Exceptional Student Education, the school principal where Sally attends, the school superintendent, and the school board members. Unfortunately, it often comes down to the "squeaky wheel" gets attention concept.

Other Resources
Wright's law ( http://www.wrightslaw.com/) will provide a lot of great advice and you can search for DEAF or INTERPRETERS and find case law. Great advice too on writing letters and documenting.

I'd also suggest you see if you have any parent advocacy groups in your area. Do you have a university program with a Deaf ed program ? I have often helped parents in an advocacy role (I direct a Deaf Ed teacher preparation program at a university). There may be someone near you who could act in that manner.

If the district responds in a negative manner, you have the right to seek mediation.


Do Not Allow Gaps
Always make sure your child's IEP states that Sally is to have a qualified ASL interpreter at all times in mainstream classes. If Sally is in a hearing impaired (self-contained) class for part of the day, the interpreter would not be needed full- time. Sally certainly needs the interpreter whenever Sally leaves that room. If Sally's IEP currently does not state this, request a meeting with the school ASAP and request that this be changed/added to Sally's IEP immediately. It is the law (IDEA 2004). If the school only has 1 interpreter, then they'll have to make schedule changes so that all students needs are met utilizing that 1 person - or they HAVE TO hire another. If the school gives u a difficult time, go right to the top (school board), or try to locate an child advocate to attend your meetings with you. They have to provide this service for Sally, leaving no 'gaps' in Sally's day.

At the high school level, my program had 3 ASL interpreters. One child had 1 of them full-time (all reg ed schedule) - and the other 2 interps would go where they were needed as the rest of the kids in my program left our self-contained classroom. The scheduling was difficult at times, but the school had no other choice but to make it work.

P.S. - IEP's have to be written each year, and they may contain things u aren't 100% clear about. Schools are very careful about what they state in IEP's b/c they are legal documents. Make sure you ask lots of questions & you can ALWAYS refuse to sign if you don't agree with things stated in the document.


Budget Not Excuse
Hello. I am a special education teacher. It is illegal to deny a child what he or she needs (if your child has an IEP) based on budget. I suggest you contact your SPED office through the district and demand a meeting. Also, you have the right to an advocate at any IEP meeting that will be on your child's side. Request one. As a special educator, I have seen children denied of what is rightfully theirs because their parents don't speak up or do it loud enough. I have also seen other children get more than needed because parents have insisted firmly and relentlessly. Trust me, schools don't want controversy and are worried about due process. Don't let this go.

Federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),P.L.102-119, guarantee a student's right to full educational opportunity

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