by Max Brantley
The community of Marshall Islanders in Northwest Arkansas is a familiar story by now, along with their efforts to cope with cultural and language barriers in Springdale. It's reported today in the New York Times by Bret Schulte. His article notes an ongoing effort to get state officials to offer a Marshallese-language driver's test. Driving is necessary to reach jobs and school. Driving without a license can be costly.
Ms. Laelan and lawyers from Legal Aid of Arkansas have petitioned the State Police, which administers the test, and are considering filing complaints with the federal Transportation Department. “We tried asking nicely, and that didn’t work,” Casey Bryant, a Legal Aid lawyer, said. “The lack of language access can be seen as a violation of the Civil Rights Act.”
I wouldn't go looking for support from the local Republican legislative delegation, particularly Rep. Jon Woods, for state services in a language other than English. He does, however, have a Democratic opponent for Senate in the fall with a heart.
UPDATE: Later in the day, that Democratic candidate, Diana Gonzales Worthen, said she'd work to get a driver's test in Marshallese. Said her news release:
Gonzales Worthen’s opponent, State Representative Jon Woods, has been quiet this summer, touring with his rock band in Oklahoma.
“We’re not surprised to hear silence from Jon Woods on this issue. In six years in the state legislature, he has done very little to improve the lives of our most vulnerable residents in Springdale,” Diana for Senate spokeswoman Barbara Price-Davis said.