Lost in Translation

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Lost in Translation

New York

Lawsuit demands DOE increase language services for parents

Parents attended a rally at Tweed Hall, where they demanded the DOE provide more translation and interpretation services to those whose children require special education. Advocates filed a federal complaint today against the city Department of Education that they said represents years of troubling reports from parents who don't speak English. Hundreds of those parents have come to the advocacy groups with concerns that the department doesn't provide sufficient language services for navigating special education. And with extensive special education reforms in progress, the need for language services is more pressing than ever, said Kim Sweet, executive director of Advocates for Children. AFC, which represents low-income students and students with disabilities, joined with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest to file the complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights on behalf of 19 city families. The complaint charges the city with violating federal, state, and city laws by failing to provide translation services for the parents of children with special needs. The complaint profiles one of the parents in detail. Nyuk Siem Looi, who speaks only Cantonese, has two sons who are autistic and cannot speak. According to the complaint, Looi has been told to bring her own interpreter to meetings and pressured to sign documents about her sons' educational programs that she could not understand. Parents named in the complaint were joined by dozens of others at a rally on the steps of City Hall today after the complaint was filed, many holding umbrellas to relieve themselves from more than 90-degree heat.