Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: January 24, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Grosso, Nadeau, Gray, Allen, R. White, Silverman, and McDuffie

Summary: To amend the Language Access Act of 2004 to add the Mayor's Office of Community Affairs, the Secretary to the Council of the District of Columbia, and other entities to the list of covered entities with major public contact; require each public school and public charter school to provide translations of essential information to students, parents, and guardians; require the language access coordinators of certain covered entities with major public contact to have language access coordination as their primary role; require the Office of Human Rights to publish an annual summary of all decisions, orders, corrective actions, and fines issued in the prior year; require public schools and public charter schools to designate a culturally competent language access liaison and each local education agency to designate a language access coordinator if the percentage of students who are of limited or no-English proficiency is more than 5 percent, or less, or 500 individuals, whichever is fewer, of the population being served by the public school or public charter school; clarify the complaint filing and appeals procedures; establish monetary penalties for violations of the act; and establish the Language Access Education Awareness Fund. 

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson. 

Today, along with Councilmembers Allen, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman, and Vincent Gray,  I and introducing the “Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2017.”

Since the D.C. Language Access Act of 2004 was passed over ten years ago, the immigrant population has grown rapidly in the District of Columbia. Our diverse immigrant communities, who come from all over the world, account for more than one third of the city’s population growth since 2007.  There are approximately 85,000 immigrants in D.C., and they have a need for government services. 

I introduced this legislation with the intent of strengthening existing law by increasing the standards of the Language Access Act for government services for all of our non-English proficient residents. This is an issue that is important in both government agencies and in our schools. 

Originally, this bill was introduced in Council Period 21 and assigned Bill 21-66 and was jointly referred to the Committee on Education, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee of the Whole.  A joint hearing with over 80 witnesses was held in July 2015 and the Committee on Education marked it up in September 2015 and the Committee on Judiciary marked it up in September 2016.  Therefore, I am re-introducing the version that is substantially similar to the one passed out of the Judiciary Committee to preserve the hearing that took place and the work already accomplished.

The bill requires that each public school and public charter school shall provide translations of essential information.  Essential information is defined as data relating to a student's well-being and educational progress, including special education matters; academic performance and attendance; behavioral and discipline; activities for which notice is needed or parental permission; public health and safety notifications; and the student handbook.

The bill also requires that each public and public charter school with a 5 percent or more non-English proficient population, must designate a culturally competent language access liaison at each school and designate a language access coordinator for each local education agency. 

Finally, the bill addresses violations made by other government agencies and imposes corrective actions and penalties for violations of this act and establishes a non-lapsing Language Access Education Awareness fund to help cover the costs of agency awareness and implementation.

I want to thank my colleagues who for co-introduced this legislation with me and welcome any other co-sponsors at this time.

Thank you.