Illinois passes bill on interpreters in public school, effective immediately

Illinois’s House Bill 5214 (HB 5214) — which expands access to interpreters in the state’s public schools — was approved earlier this month, going into effect immediately as of June 10.

As MultiLingual reported in April, Illinois is one of a couple of states throughout the United States that has been looking to improve language access in the school system for non-English-speaking parents. Prior to the approval of HB 5214, the state’s public school system only required the presence of an interpreter if a non-English-speaking or deaf parent was attending a meeting for the development of an Individualized Education Program for their child. 

Now, schools must provide interpreting services for several other meetings with these parents, allowing them to take a more active role in their child’s education. The law expands coverage to include Section 504 meetings (which focus on developing specific accommodations for disabled students), conflict mediation sessions, and multidisciplinary conferences. This law went into effect immediately following its approval from Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker on June 10.

“Parents who don’t speak English or have another communication barrier still have every right to be involved in decisions regarding their child’s education,” said state senator Karina Villa, who spearheaded the bill’s development. “By expanding the availability of interpreters in situations where those decisions are being made, we ensure that all parents feel comfortable and able to participate.”

According to a report from the Journal-Courier in Jacksonville, Illinois, some public schools in areas with large populations of individuals with limited English proficiency, already provided these services to begin with. However, these services were not required, meaning that parents who weren’t proficient in English did not have a legally guaranteed right to them. 

“It comes down to an issue of equity and accessibility when communication barriers keep parents from participating in these vital discussions regarding their own children,” Villa said. “I’m pleased to see more barriers being broken down for families across Illinois.”

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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