Washington law aims to decrease language barriers in school systems

A new bill passed this spring focuses on making it easier for students and families facing language barriers to access interpretation and support services.  

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A new law will bring increased access to language interpreters in Washington.

House Bill 1153, which was passed this spring, focuses on making it easier for students and families facing language barriers to access free, high-quality interpretation and support services.  

The bill says that many students in Washington may have language barriers because “they prefer to communicate in a language other than English or require communication assistance services,” and failure to provide language access could lead to “long-term economic costs.”  

One way the bill aims to reduce the educational opportunity gaps created by these language barriers is to increase communication between school staff and families.

The law will require schools to include families, interpreters and school personnel in the development of a language access plan and seek feedback on how well services are being provided. A statewide advisory committee will ensure input from families, schools, interpreters and community members are represented.  

The law will also require all public schools to designate a language access liaison who will “facilitate district compliance with state 16 and federal laws related to family engagement.”

Some of the duties performed by the liaison will include oversight of how the school collects and reports data on languages spoken in the district, tracking requests for interpreters, collecting feedback from participants on a school’s language-access provisions, and accessing the effectiveness of the interpretation services provided. That data will then be shared with the district and state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

By October 1, 2022, each school district must adopt a language access policy that adheres to the principles of an effective language access program for “culturally responsive, systemic family engagement.”

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