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Parents push Hartford Public Schools for more language equity

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Brenda León
/
Connecticut Public
Imelda Barajas holds the microphone as she speaks in front of Hartford Public Schools' central office. She's frustrated with challenges accessing quality interpretation for her son. She is part of a volunteer-led committee, Madres Guerreras from Make the Road Connecticut.

Since enrolling her son in Hartford Public Schools, Imelda Barajas has found ensuring interpretation services a constant challenge.

“The teachers would bring in the school’s security guard or secretary who might be bilingual to tell me about my son’s progress, who receives special education services,” Barajas said in Spanish. “It wasn’t until he was in fifth grade that I learned as a parent I have the right to request a qualified interpreter. But now he’s in ninth grade and I’ve had to refuse the meetings.”

Barajas joined a group of parents protesting outside the school district’s central office Monday. The Hartford volunteer-led group Madres Guerreras launched the campaign No Más Barreras, Acceso a la Educación, or No More Barriers, Access to Education, to ensure language access and interpretation for parents with limited English proficiency.

They’re demanding school personnel who are qualified to interpret and translate in the five most spoken languages in Hartford Public Schools.

Another demand is access to accurately translated documents and surveys sent home.

“I want to be able to better understand my son’s goals, progress and milestones during his progress meetings,” Barajas said. “I deserve a qualified interpreter during the next three years of his education.”

In a statement from Hartford Public Schools, officials say 22% of students are multilingual learners. In addition, the district says that if a parent needs an interpreter and there is no one available at the school, there is a language line available.

Officials say much of the communication is sent through the ParentSquare app, which allows families to select their preferred language so that all updates are automatically translated. The app offers up to 13 languages.

Any families with questions or concerns can contact the Welcome Center at 860-695-8400 or the superintendent’s office at Superintendent@hartfordschools.org.

Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Brenda covers the Latino/a, Latinx community with an emphasis on wealth-based disparities in health, education and criminal justice.

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