January 10, 2012
Assistance Required for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Households
Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and under 7 C.F.R. 245.6(a)(2) of the National School Lunch program regulations, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) have a responsibility to be aware of the language needs of Limited English Proficient (LEP) households and ensure these households have access to the same information other parents have in a manner they can easily understand.
LEAs are encouraged to include the food service department when planning outreach to LEP parents to ensure that all households served by the LEA are adequately notified about the Child Nutrition Programs. By taking the steps described below, LEAs can help ensure that low-income children whose parents or guardians' primary language is not English can get the school meals for which they are eligible.
- Identify the primary language of households that might be eligible for free or reduced price school meals and communicate with households in that language. Most schools have a system in place to identify parents' primary language for communications regarding the child's education. LEAs can use information gained from using a Home Language Survey, which is conducted at enrollment to determine the dominant language in the home. As an alternative, LEAs could use USDA's Food and Nutrition Service's (FNS) "I speak" (http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/frp/Ispeak.pdf) to identify the appropriate language for communications regarding school meals. Several languages may be used in a community and it is important that all households be offered LEP services. Simply offering the most common alternative language is not sufficient.
- Provide written translations. State agencies or LEAs may choose to develop written translations of their own materials (including applications submitted online) in the most prevalent languages of households in their district. If LEAs do not have their own translated application materials they must at a minimum make FNS' prototype translations available. Translations of the household eligibility applications into 33 languages are available at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/frp/frp.process.htm.
- Provide oral interpretation services. For parents that speak less prevalent languages or who have limited literacy, LEAs should identify oral interpretation services available within the school that can be used to communicate with households about school meal benefits. Parents should not need to rely on family members (especially children) or friends as these people are not always competent to provide quality and accurate interpretations. LEAs are encouraged to also partner with other local resources, such as migrant or refugee assistance agencies, when available.
- Assist with verification. State agencies and LEAs are expected to have a system in place to provide verification notices to each household in the primary language of the parents or guardians in the household, follow up with households that do not respond to the initial verification request, and provide oral assistance if the parent or guardian has difficulty understanding the written request. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) translations of prototype verification materials are available on the FNS web site.
- Serve parents or guardians with limited literacy. While USDA's prototype materials are designed to be comprehensible to someone with low literacy, LEAs are expected to provide assistance to any parent or guardian who are unable to read so that they can understand and complete the application, certification, and verification process. The Federal government's guidelines for plain writing are available at: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/bigdoc/TOC.cfm.
- Include the required non-discrimination statement. Parents need to understand that they will be treated fairly if they apply for free or reduced price school meals. The letter to households or the application itself must include the non-discrimination statement that appears on USDA's prototype application:
- Non-discrimination Statement: This explains what to do if you believe you have been treated unfairly. "In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice).Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer."