Students from SMART, or Student Multiethnic Action Research Team, shared some of the formidable barriers they faced when entering the DC school system. One SMART member lacked access to even basic information at school:
“During my first two years in high school I could not understand what the lunch staff were asking me. Sometimes I wouldn’t get lunch because I wouldn’t know how to ask for it.” -Mario, SMART Member
Parents testified about barriers that prevent them from being involved in their children’s education. One mother described the ineffectiveness and miscommunications that resulted from her son’s school forcing her student to interpret communication between herself and her son's teachers. She had to simply leave one parent-teacher conference because her son did not know how to interpret what was being said
“I was not able to ask questions as [my son] Jiovani did not know how to translate what he was saying, so we had to leave”. -Maria, ELL parent
“We passed a good law 10 years ago [the DC Language Access Act of 2004] but it seems that the government has not taken language access seriously. This is a human rights issue”. -DC City Councilmember David Grosso
Councilmember Grosso authored this amendment in conjunction with the DC Language Access Coalition and SMART, following calls for authentic, meaningful language access from a wide array of community groups. The impact of the more than 70 compelling testimonies given on July 1st was clear in his remarks: “From today's hearing and others over the past 2.5 years, I see that we have a very serious problem with language access in DC”. The Language Access in Education Act of 2015 is a clear first step in remedying the pervasive disregard for our rights, as we build a stronger District together.