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Charleston Co. School District sets new initiatives for multilingual families after equal access settlement

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 9:30 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 11:57 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District is working on new initiatives to help limited English proficient families after entering an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In March 2020, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division settled an investigation with the school district that stemmed from complaints that the district failed to communicate essential information to thousands of Spanish-speaking, multilingual families and denied their children full and equal access to the district’s education programs and services.

Since then, district officials said they have taken immediate appropriate action to overcome language barriers and provide equal participation in instructional programs for students.

“We translated essential documents in the language of the parents that they understood that was considered relevant information for parents to be informed so that they can make decisions about their child’s educational programs and services,” CCSD Associate Superintendent for Student support services Michele English-Watson said.

The district has also created the Office of Translation and Interpretation to provide immediate response to oral interpretation and written translation requests.

Right now, CCSD currently serves 5,530 multi-lingual students who speak more than 70 languages. The district has six bilingual secretaries, and they are hoping to increase that number to 20.

Diana Martinez has a child that attends the James Island Charter High School. She says there have been some issues with the language barrier, and she believes it is important to provide adequate translation services in public schools.

“I would be happy because it’s not just me, I have friends that struggle with English. We know English is the primary language in the United States and we bring our kids here for a better future, but we u don’t really speak English, just Spanish,” Martinez said. “I would be happy if they had someone or more people to help us in that aspect.”

District leaders say most of the initiatives are currently in place, but they will monitor the ongoing plans and track the request of translation and interpretation services.

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