Teaching Tolerance releases best practices for engaging LEP students and families in schools

To help school districts create a supportive learning environment for all students, the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project has released a best practices guide for engaging limited English proficient (LEP) students and their families.

“Over the course of the last two decades, the immigrant population has increased exponentially,” said Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello. “We’re offering the best practices guide as tool to help schools meet the linguistic needs of this population as well as provide students with a welcoming school environment.”

The guide – Best Practices: Engaging Limited English Proficient Students and Families – will help school administrators create a comprehensive communication plan that puts LEP parents on equal footing with English-speaking parents. It also offers tips to help schools steer clear of discrimination during student registration and create a checklist to maintain a welcoming school environment for English language learners and their families.

The guide is available to schools and educators across the country at no charge.

The guide stems from a 2011 resolution between the U.S. Department of Education and the Durham (N.C.) Public School system that outlines a plan to create a school environment that nurtures every student, regardless of English language ability.

The SPLC filed a complaint last year on behalf of the Durham school system’s LEP students, citing a number of discriminatory practices, including limited access to interpreters and translated materials, which prevented students and their families from fully participating in education programs. The complaint also charged that the school system had created a hostile environment for Latino students by allowing employees to harass students about their citizenship status.

Federal law requires public schools to provide LEP parents with important information in a language they can understand. It also requires that schools not condition enrollment or graduation from a public school on a students’ citizenship or immigration status.

The Teaching Tolerance guide also encourages schools to develop an anti-bullying policy that includes a section on national origin-based harassment; to hold community meetings, with interpreters present, to provide important information regarding registration/enrollment and access to communication services; and to develop cultural sensitivity training for school staffers.