Communicating with immigrant parents

One Of The Nation’s Poorest Districts Has Found A Way To Help Immigrant Students
By Tara García Mathewson


Photo credit: Tara García Mathewson

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — When Dadhi Dahal first came to the United States in early 2009, the Bhutanese population in Syracuse, New York was quite small — the first refugees from Bhutan, fleeing ethnic cleansing policies in their home country, arrived in 2008, after they had spent years in refugee camps in Nepal.

Fast forward eight years. The Bhutanese population has grown into a flourishing, tightly knit group of about 3,000 people. They are part of a substantial refugee population from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East that has transformed the city and its schools. Students in the Syracuse City School District speak more than 70 different languages and four of the most common among them are Nepali, Karen, Somali, and Arabic.

In 2010, to better serve this population, the Syracuse City school District created a new position — nationality workers — to serve as a bridge between new immigrant communities and the schools. Dahal is one of them, and a big part of his job is interpretation. He helps immigrant parents communicate with English-speaking teachers and district officials and ensures that parents have an opportunity to be heard.

The district, one of the poorest in the country, works hard to maintain open channels of communication with parents — because it’s important to student success, and because it’s the law. A failure to communicate effectively with immigrant parents is a violation of their civil rights, considered discrimination based on national origin, which is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without language services, non-English-speaking parents are considered to be blocked from equal access to school information and resources.

Click here to read the full story, published by The Hechinger Report and The Huffington Post.