This blog was translated from Spanish to English. To read its original form in Spanish, please use the language selector at the top of this page. | Este blog fue traducido del español al inglés. Para leer su formulario original en español, utilice el selector de idioma en la parte superior de esta página.
Because I am so involved in my community, I often hear from other Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) families who need help communicating with their children’s school or that struggle to be as involved as they wish to be. Language justice is the right everyone has to communicate in the language they feel most comfortable. In IPS, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make this dream a reality. I am actively working to ask district leaders to update their racial equity policy to include this. Please join me.
Just recently, I received a call from an IPS mom whose child was experiencing bullying at school shortly after moving here from Nicaragua. I went to the school to help her after the incident occurred. The principal of the school grabbed her student by the arm to move him and then spoke to the student in English. Another nearby student translated incorrectly, stating that the principal said to “stay in line or she would whoop the Spanish speaking student next time.”
While this is not what the principal actually said, it was harmful for her student to hear because it set expectations of harsh punishment and instilled fear. We can’t always lean on students to interpret. Even though it was worked out so they translating student eventually stated they were joking, it had a harmful effect.
Beyond making non-English speaking families feel welcome and opening the doors for their involvement, I believe cultural training is an absolute must for school leaders. The leaders of our schools need to be intentional with families that are newcomer immigrants.
I do what I can as a mom and a friend to my community, but I am only one person. I hope the IPS board considers many ways to bring language justice to our district. One idea would be partnering with more organizations that build parent leaders in the community so they can be a resource for families in their areas, like I am for the far east side. There are many families that don’t read, write, or speak English in our district. They need to feel comfortable enough to lean on someone in the community who can help.
I know that parent engagement is so important for student success. I know so many families that want to be involved more than they are, but do not know how to bridge language differences – they feel the burden is on them.
This was one example of why language justice is important. There are so many more. Please join me and email IPS leaders today. Ask them to update the equity policy and support language justice.
I will continue to advocate for language justice because it is something our children need to feel safe in school. Kids will not learn if they feel unsafe, discriminated against, or like they are not welcomed in the school.