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Interpreter Issues in School

Fighting for Interpreting Services


Updated April 25, 2009

and to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), including special education and related services through age 21. Related services help a student benefit from special education, and include:
  • transportation
  • speech pathology and audiology
  • psychological services
  • physical and occupational therapies
  • recreation
  • social work services
  • counseling services (including rehabilitation counseling)
  • and medical services.
An interpreter CAN qualify as a related service.

Again, Budget Not Excuse
Federal law and court decisions state that lack of funds is NOT an excuse for a school system's failure to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE).This excuse should not be given to parents.

Make sure the interpreter is written into your child's IEP and it clearly states that your child MUST HAVE the interpreter in order to succeed. Try to get a goal and/or objective written including the interpreter.

Document, Document
Get documentation of denials: Two strategies for documenting denials are:

  1. Ask the person who tells you that your child cannot have the service because the school system lacks funds, to send you a letter or a written statement stating (a) that you are being turned down, and (b) listing the reasons.

  2. If you do not have a refusal in writing, but the district continues to say that they will not pay for a service, then you should write to them. Write a letter to the person involved, repeating exactly what they have told you. Ask them to contact you within a week if the information in your letter is not correct.

    Send a copy of the school system's letter or your letter about the situation to the school board's attorney, and ask for a statement about whether such a position and reasoning are system policy or practice. A policy is a formal written statement, usually approved by the school board or superintendent, outlining how such situations should be handled. A practice is a "custom" or the usual way of handling a situation. A policy would have to be changed or approved by the "powers that be" such as the School Board, while a practice can be changed by an individual, such as an administrator or teacher.

Lawyers are often unaware of statements made by personnel in their system and they may quickly explain the position of the district on such matters. Again, ensure that you get a letter from the attorney, or that you send a letter to him/her, re-stating what you were told. If the lawyer does not agree with the school's position, use this letter in pursuing your request.

If the lawyer supports the "NO" answer that you have gotten from others in the system, send a copy of this letter to the State Director of Special Education. Ask whether this position is acceptable to the state, and in agreement with federal and state laws and regulations.

File Complaint, Request Hearing
Document your situation and file a complaint with the state's Director of Special Education, request mediation or a due process hearing, or file a 504 complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, if you are being denied access to appropriate programs or services. Other strategies such as those listed above should make it possible to avoid these procedures, but parents should know that they have the right to use these approaches if they need to.

Ask whether the schools have looked into all possible sources of funds (question how much goes to this football program, if needed) and services. The parent should not feel responsible for finding such funds, since that is the job for which the school staff are paid, but they may wish to encourage administrators to pursue all avenues of funding.


  1. Follow up on the details Queen wrote

  2. Sally's current IEP should state that Sally has a 1:1 qualified interpreter/aid and that Sally's placement is in the Xth grade. They would have to have a new IEP in order to change that grade placement and that service/access.

    When was Sally's current IEP written?

    Update IEP
    If your current IEP doesn't include those two aspects (placement:Xth grade, services 1:1 interpreter/aid) then request an immediate IEP to get those added. If they're included then they must be provided. Demand a fair hearing if they refuse.

    A fair hearing must be scheduled within a certain time frame, you'll have to look up the time line. Same for an IEP request, check for what the time line is for when they must schedule one if you request one. Again, Sally's IEP should already state that Sally is in Xth grade and has a 1:1 aid. They cannot change that without a new IEP.

  3. When and if you do have a new IEP meeting don't sign the IEP on that day, even if you feel it has what you want. You are not required to sign it then. Tell them you need to take it home and read through and be sure it contains what you want. Insist that the IEP state that Sally's placement is in a Xth grade classroom. Insist that the IEP state Sally have a full time interpreter/aid (if that is what you want).
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