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.
Language justice is the right everyone has to communicate in the language they feel most comfortable. In Indianapolis Public Schools, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to make this dream a reality. I applaud the district for making some efforts, but I hope you’ll read my story and understand why it’s important that the district acts now.
I moved to the U.S. from Puebla, Mexico, about 15 years ago, so I know what it’s like to be in a whole new world, not knowing the language, and not having any support. It’s terrifying at times and can be really difficult. Schools for our children need to understand language justice and why it is important for non-English speaking families to succeed.
While my 9-year-old daughter, Bryana, is very smart and doesn’t need as much extra support as many in the English-language learner (ELL) community, I speak up a lot. I do this because her education is very important to me as is the education of my soon-to-be kindergartener, Carlos. I speak up because I want other parents who don’t speak English to feel they can speak up too.
So many parents that don’t speak English feel they are a burden or get frustrated trying to communicate with their students’ schools. For me to be engaged, and for other non-native English speakers to be engaged, we have to do double the work compared to an English speaking parent. This isn’t language justice, but it is the reason that language justice is so important.
The ELL community is growing in IPS and students learning English who come from families that don’t speak English need more support and resources than English speaking students. Language justice also plays a big role in parent engagement; if parents don’t know what us going on, they don’t engage. All of this directly correlates with how a student does academically. Parents, teachers and students —EVERYONE needs to be at the table for academic growth and equity.
Over the years as an IPS parent, I’ve personally helped a lot of ELL families because I know their struggles and frustrations.
Once, I went to help my friend with a parent teacher conference about her son. The teacher was upset saying that he was doing bad and not paying attention. The son would translate for his mother and tell his mother that he was doing well and his grades were on track. This isn’t uncommon for ELL families, but it is another example of why language justice is so important.
Another time, a mom called me and told me her daughter was sick and she did not want to send her to school because she did not know if it was COVID-related. After being transferred around several times, I eventually called for her and got through to someone who could help because I do know some English. This mom was worried about her child having an unexcused absence. It may seem like something simple, but it turns into a big deal if your child has had several unexcused absences. Parents struggling to call and report an absence are less inclined to stand up for language justice, equity and other issues because their day-to-day interactions are already discouraging or twice as difficult.
Language justice must be a priority for IPS. I hope you’ll join me and sign this petition because you agree that the district needs consider the needs of ELL families like mine.