The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 86. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch)diocese serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that children with disabilities be educated in accordance with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), specific to their individual needs. Moreover, it is required that one or both parents of a student with a disability be present at each “team meeting” relative to their child’s IEP and be given an opportunity to participate.
Effective parent participation and involvement in the IEP process can be significantly hindered when a parent speaks an entirely different language. Accordingly, House Bill 86 seeks to minimize the divide created by such language barriers by allowing the non-English-speaking parent to request that their child’s IEP be translated into their native language. The bill requires that school personnel honor this request within the reasonable time period of thirty days.
The Church has long supported the free movement of people and the maintenance of their inherent dignified rights in doing so. Pope John Paul II has stated that the “Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity”. (Ecclesia in America, 65). Moreover, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has noted that “intercultural communication—sustained efforts, carried out by people of diverse cultures, to appreciate their differences, work out conflicts, and build on commonalities—will thus be an important component of coming to know and respect the diverse cultures that make up today's Church.” (Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity, USCCB, 2000)
Likewise, the Church supports accommodations for immigrant and/or non-English-speaking parents to be able to participate in their children’s education in the same way as their English-speaking counterparts. It is for the aforementioned reasons that we urge this Committee to report favorably on House Bill 86.