Oct 12, 1997
Re: Complaint #04-96-1313
This letter is to notify you of the determination of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding the above-referenced complaint. The complainant alleged that ___ County School District (District) is discriminating on the basis of disability. Specifically, the complainant alleged that the District is discriminating against hearing impaired students by failing to provide qualified interpreters.
OCR is responsible for enforcing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as amended, 29 U.S.C. Section 794, and its implementing regulation, 34 C.F.R. Part 104, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department. OCR also has jurisdiction as a designated agency under 42 U.S.C. Sections 12131 et seq., and its implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in public elementary and secondary educational systems. The District, a public elementary and secondary educational system, receives Federal financial assistance and, therefore, is subject to OCR's jurisdiction.
The regulation implementing Section 504 at 34 C.F.R. Section 104.4 (b) (1) (iii) and Title II at 28 C.F.R. Section 35.130 (b) (1) (iii), state, respectively, that recipients and entities in providing aids, benefits or services, may not afford a qualified individual with a disability an opportunity to participate that is not as effective as that provided to others. The Section 504 regulation at 34 C.F.R. Section 104.33 (a), (b) (1) and (2) (i), requires recipients to provide a free and appropriate education to each qualified individual with a disability which includes the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designated to meet the individual needs of persons with disabilities as adequately as the needs of persons without disabilities are met.
Title II recognizes the special importance of communication in its implementing regulation at 28 C.F.R. Section 35.160 (a). The regulation ensures that communications with persons with disabilities are as effective as communications with others. Thus, the issue is the extent to which the communication is actually as effective as that provided to others. According to 28 C.F.R. Section 35.160 (b), a public entity must furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in its programs and activities.
The Title II implementing regulation at 28 C.F.R. Section 35.104 states that auxiliary aids and services includes qualified interpreters who must be able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.
At any point in a complaint investigation, OCR may administratively close a case if the recipient indicates a willingness to resolve the issues raised by the complainant. On October 1, 1997, the District provided OCR with a voluntary resolution plan (copy enclosed). The plan addresses the complainant's allegations, and its implementation will be monitored by OCR. OCR is, therefore, closing this complaint as of the date of this letter. If the District fails to implement the agreement, OCR will reopen the case for further investigation and findings.
OCR would like to thank you for your cooperation during the course of the resolution of this case. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact (name omitted), Attorney, at (number omitted) or (name omitted), Program Manager, at (number omitted).
On August 12, 1997, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) advised you that we had completed our investigation of this complaint. The complainant alleged that the ___ County School District (District) discriminates against students with disabilities by failing to provide qualified interpreter services. OCR's first objective in complaint resolution is to resolve the allegations of discrimination. In order to resolve the allegations of this complaint, the District agrees to the following:
1. The District will recruit and hire qualified interpreters. A qualified interpreter is one who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any specialized vocabulary.
The District will advertise vacancies for interpreter positions. The positions will be advertised through the Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), the Georgia Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf (GRID), Registries for interpreters for the Deaf in surrounding states, publications for the deaf, such as "Deaf Life," "Silent News," and "Newswaves," and colleges in Georgia and the surrounding states which have interpreter training courses.
2. Applicants considered for employment will be evaluated by a certified interpreter prior to being hired. A certified interpreter is one who is on the RID or GRID registry. The District will ensure that interpreters who are hired are qualified.
3. The interpreters currently employed by the District shall be evaluated by November 1, 1997. The evaluation will determine if each interpreter has the appropriate skills for the position and will be conducted by a certified interpreter. In order to ensure continued high quality in services provided by interpreters, the District will evaluate all interpreters at least once per year by a certified interpreter. If any interpreter is found not to have the appropriate skills necessary to provide services, the District will take appropriate measures.
4. The District will require interpreters to attend professional training. The District will sponsor training for its interpreters and will encourage certification.
To ensure full implementation of this agreement, the District will provide the following monitoring data to OCR by December 1, 1997:
1. A copy of the evaluation reports completed by November 1, 1997 for all interpreters employed by the District. If an interpreter is found not to have the appropriate skills necessary to provide educational services, document and report measures taken by the District.
The following data will be provided in two reports, the first for the 1997-98 school year due by June 30, 1998 and the second for the 1998-99 school year due by October 1, 1998:
2. Copies of all recruitment and hiring materials for interpreters including advertisements for vacancies.
3. Copies of all applications for interpreter positions for 1997-98 and 1998-99 and lists of persons hired. Indicate the date they were evaluated and by whom and the results of the evaluations.
4. A description of all training required by the District for interpreters. For 1997-98, provide a list of interpreters who attended training (required and non-required), dates of attendance and indicate if they successfully completed the course. For 1998-99, provide a list of all training planned for the year.
5. Provide a copy of the IEPs for the 1997-98 and 1998-99 school years for hearing impaired students who are provided services by an interpreter.
Requests for a copy of the original letter, or questions regarding the letter, should be directed to OCR.