The Definition of Homelessness
The McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act provides a definition of homeless children and youths to be used by state and local educational agencies (LEAs). It defines homeless children and youths to be those who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. Under the larger umbrella of lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, the law also provides several examples of situations that meet the definition. The examples include children and youths:
- sharing housing due to a loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;
- living in hotels, motels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to a lack of alternative adequate housing;
- living in emergency or transitional shelters;
- abandoned in hospitals;
- living in a public or private place not designated for, or normally used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
- living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar places;
- living in one of the above circumstances and who are migratory according to the definition in Section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
When considering if a student meets the criteria in the definition provided by the law, it is important to remember that the list provided is only a guide, and more situations may exist that meet the criteria than are actually listed.
LEA Requirements in the McKinney-Vento Act
Local educational agencies (LEAs or school districts) are instrumental in ensuring that the rights and services guaranteed in the McKinney-Vento Act are implemented throughout the school district. All LEAs must follow the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act.
The McKinney-Vento Act provides a number of LEA requirements for serving homeless children and youths. The tasks outlined in the law are summarized below.
In general, LEAs must
- continue a homeless child’s or youth’s education in the school of origin for the duration of homelessness and for the remainder of the academic year, if the child or youth becomes permanently housed during an academic year; or
- enroll the homeless child or youth in any public school that non-homeless students who live in the attendance area in which the child or youth is actually living are eligible to attend.
School stability provisions require LEAs to
- presume that keeping the child or youth in the school of origin is in the child’s or youth’s best interest, except when doing so is contrary to the request of the child’s or youth’s parent or guardian, or (in the case of an unaccompanied homeless youth) the youth;
- consider student-centered factors related to the child’s or youth’s best interest, including factors related to the impact of mobility on achievement, education, health, and safety of homeless children and youths, giving priority to the request of the child’s or youth’s parent or guardian or (in the case of an unaccompanied homeless youth) the youth;
- provide a written explanation of the reasons for the LEA’s decision, including information regarding the right to appeal, to the parent or guardian of a homeless student or to an unaccompanied homeless youth, if the LEA sends the child to a school other than the one requested; and
- ensure, in the case of an unaccompanied homeless youth, that the local liaison assists in placement or enrollment decisions, gives priority to the views of the youth, and provides notice of the right to appeal an LEA’s best interest determination that is contrary to the youth’s request.
Regarding enrollment and records, the enrolling school must
- immediately enroll the child or youth, even without records that are normally required for enrollment or if the child or youth has missed application or enrollment deadlines during any period of homelessness;
- contact the school last attended for relevant records;
- assist with obtaining immunizations or other required health records; and
- make any records ordinarily kept by the school available in a timely fashion when the child or youth enrolls in a new school or LEA.
If a dispute arises over eligibility, or school selection or enrollment in a school
- the child or youth must be immediately enrolled in the school in which enrollment is sought, pending final resolution of the dispute, including all available appeals;
- the parent or guardian of the child or youth or (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth must be provided with a written explanation of any decisions related to eligibility, school selection or enrollment made by the school, LEA, or State educational agency (SEA), including the rights to appeal the decision;
- the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth must be referred to the local liaison to carry out the dispute resolution process; and
- in the case of an unaccompanied youth, the local liaison must ensure that the youth is immediately enrolled in the school in which the youth seeks enrollment pending resolution of the dispute.
Privacy provisions require LEAs to
- treat information about a homeless child’s or youth’s living situation as a student education record and not deem it to be directory information.
Comparable services provisions require LEAs to
- provide services comparable to those received by other students in the school.
If you live within the Springfield City School District and your family has lost housing, the district may be able to help.
Please contact your local school or:
Melvina Torbert, SCSD Local Liaison
JoAnn Christie, McKinney Vento Facilitator