Classroom Interpreters - Professional Conduct Guidelines
Rules, Regulations and Legal Issues
All Professionals in Educational Settings Follow Rules and Regulations that Guide Behavior
All school communities have rules and policies that govern the behavior of school staff. Educational interpreters should understand and follow all school policies.
Policies and procedures established by national organizations, such as the Registry for Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), do not supersede school district requirements.
An educational interpreter’s annual evaluation should include information about how well she/he follows school procedures.
Legal Situations and Educational Interpreters
There are times when a student who is deaf or hard of hearing requires interpreting related to law enforcement or legal situations. Interpreters who are qualified to interpret in a legal situation should be brought in to provide interpreting. The educational interpreter who is familiar with the student’s language abilities may be asked to team interpret, i.e., provide language support to the primary interpreter who has legal interpreting qualifications but has minimal or no prior interpreting experience with this particular student’s communication style or needs.
In some states, there are legal definitions of who is qualified to interpret in a legal setting and schools must follow those. The national organization of interpreters for adult consumers, RID, has specialized certification for interpreters who work in legal settings.
In absence of rules, schools should understand:
- Legal interpreters require specialized training − There is a great deal of technical language and vocabulary that may be critical for the student who is deaf or hard of hearing to understand. A legal interpreter knows how to interpret the Miranda passage, for example.
- Educational interpreters may not be qualified − Not all educational interpreters are qualified to interpret routine classroom communication. Interpreting legal situations can be much more difficult and the consequences can be severe. In all legal interactions, the student has a right to effective interpretation.
- Students have a right to effective interpretation in legal situations − Many states do not have minimum standards for educational interpreters. However a school defines educational interpreting, it may not meet the court’s standards. The goal should be that the student has effective and accurate interpretation, regardless of school policies regarding interpreting.
- Team Interpreting - It may be effective for the legally qualified interpreter to work with the educational interpreter as a team. The educational interpreter often knows the student and his/her communication styles. The legally qualified interpreter knows the legal terminology and rules. They can work together to provide interpretation for that specific student.
Retaining a Legally Qualified Educational Interpreter
There are specific situations where a legally qualified interpreter should be employed. These include:
- Interactions between law enforcement officers and a student who is a potential victim, witness, or suspect
- Any situation where a legal statement is being taken for future legal proceedings
- Juvenile delinquency issues
- All court proceedings
Situations When a Legally Qualified Educational Interpreter May Interpret
There are specific situations where a qualified educational interpreter may interpret. These situations include:
- IEP meetings (if not participating as a team member)
- DARE or other educational programs that may be taught by law enforcement officers
- Parent-teacher conferences (if not participating as a team member)
- Mental health counseling sessions unless the purpose is to take a statement