Classroom Interpreting

Parents - What are the responsibilities of an educational interpreter?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has designated sign language interpreting in school as a Related Service on a deaf or hard of hearing student’s IEP. That student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) designates the responsibilities of the interpreter at school relative to a student’s unique, individual needs. Therefore, the role of the educational interpreter is varied. But in general, this professional acts in the best interests of the child to assure communication access at school. It’s important to distinguish between the role and responsibility of educational interpreters and those of community interpreters who are bound by different professional standards. Both have obligations to be professional, but in school settings, the applications may be different. Interpreter training programs provide little direction about this distinction, and most educational interpreters learn the ropes on the job.

Educational interpreters often find that policies are undefined when it comes to their role at school, and their responsibilities will alter from student to student, building to building, and district to district. This can be further complicated by a lack of monitoring and oversight by a qualified professional. In many schools, the principal is the official “boss” of the interpreters although he/she may have no qualifications or expertise to provide oversight in this area.

To get past all this confusion, parents have to do their homework. Knowing that educational interpreting is considered a Related Service on a student’s IEP means that parents can expect the staffing (another term for IEP meeting) and the IEP document itself to provide necessary clarification of the interpreter’s responsibilities.

Related Services Provider (& Other Duties as Assigned)

An Individualized Education program (IEP) will identify any further duties for the educational interpreter, based on the student’s individual needs. It’s not uncommon to see interpreters functioning as tutors, speech remediators, or providers of other “related services” for educational support as determined by the IEP team. If the student uses interpreters, then his/her educational interpreters are a part of this child’s IEP team, and should be active participants in the development of the IEP for him/her. In this role, interpreters provide critical information about the student’s access issues in school, as well as other communication access strategies that may be helpful to the student. Click here to learn more about IEPs and Related Services for students using educational interpreters.