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Photo: DC Language Access Hearing – July 2015

A Marathon Hearing on Language Access … And Next Steps

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David Steib

On July 1, 2015, the DC Council held a joint public hearing on the Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015. The 75 public witnesses on the witness list included:

  • Attorneys who have helped clients to bring language access complaints after being denied language access under the law;
  • Law professors who supervise student attorneys who have written reports on the state of language access in the District, and who have worked with clients whose language access rights were violated;
  • Community members who have brought language access complaints and received favorable determinations through the process at the DC Office of Human Rights, only to continue to have their rights violated afterward; and
  • Students at DC schools who have had to interpret for their parents at parent-teacher conferences, despite the schools’ legal obligation to provide interpretation.

Three government witnesses also testified.

Because of the high number of witnesses who came forward to testify about the ways in which the current language access law is ineffective, the hearing lasted for more than six hours. Councilmember David Grosso, who authored the amendment, was present throughout the entire hearing. Also present for portions of the hearing were Councilmembers Kenyan McDuffie, Phil Mendelson, and Brandon Todd. The Council has posted a video recording of the hearing.

Although originally all written testimony was required to be submitted by July 8, the Council has agreed to extend the submission period until the end of July. If you would like to submit a written statement regarding the bill, please contact Kate Mitchell, Committee Director for the Committee on the Judiciary.

Now that the hearing on the bill has concluded, the legislation will move to mark-up, the process during with Council committees amend and rewrite legislation before it is put to a final vote. Because the Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015 was referred to three committees (on Education, on the Judiciary, and of the Whole), it will be sent to those three committees for mark-up. The bill will be reviewed in succession in the following order: first by the Committee on Education, second by the Committee on the Judiciary, and third by the Committee of the Whole.

The Council will be on recess from July 15 to September 15, 2015. During that time, staff from the three committees will be working with the chairs of the committees to identify possible changes to be implemented during the mark-up process. If you would like to voice your opinion on the bill before it is finalized, please do submit written testimony as directed above. If you miss the deadline for submitting written testimony or if you would like to privately contact committee staff, please write to the following individuals:

  • Kate Mitchell (Committee Director, Committee on the Judiciary)
  • Anne Robinson (Senior Legislative Counsel, Committee on Education)

You can learn more about the legislation at our Language Access page.

David Steib (@dgsteib) is our Membership Co-Chair and, by day, the Language Access Director at Ayuda.