MONTGOMERY, Ala. – To help school districts create a supportive learning environment for all students, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project today 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 are 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.”
Best Practices: Engaging Limited English Proficient Students and Families provides guidance for school administrators on creating a comprehensive communication plan that puts LEP parents on equal footing with English-speaking parents. It also offers tips to help administrators steer clear of discrimination during student registration and create a leadership checklist to help their staff maintain a welcoming school environment for English language learners and their families.
The guide, available to schools and educators across the country at no charge, can be viewed at: http://www.tolerance.org/ELL-best-practices.
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 Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint last year on behalf of the school system’s LEP students citing a number of discriminatory practices in the school district, 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 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.
As one of the nation’s leading providers of anti-bias education resources, Teaching Tolerance reaches hundreds of thousands of educators and millions of students annually through its Teaching Tolerance magazine, multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, professional development resources and classroom-friendly social justice documentaries. These materials are provided to educators at no cost.
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The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.