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Educating Homeless Youth

School & Work

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act provides stable educational access to students experiencing unstable living conditions.

Children tend to thrive in stability, but homelessness can easily derail educational success. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act seeks to provide the framework of educational stability for youth experiencing homelessness.  

Original article contained information adapted from the Texas Education Agency's website.

What is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act?

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that ensures that homeless youth have educational rights and protections that attempt to place them on equal footing as children without the same situational challenges. Our government wants to ensure each child has a right to free, appropriate public education.

What does FAPE stand for?

FAPE is the acronym for free appropriate public education.

Which issues is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act designed to address?

Homelessness can impact students emotionally, socially, and academically.

  • Homeless students are constantly absent.
  • Homeless students experience educational instability because they have to keep starting over in new schools where their scores continuously sink, and they achieve even less.
  • Over 40% of homeless students drop out in middle or high school.
  • Almost 60% of formerly homeless students felt the school support system was inadequate.  

How do I know if I am considered homeless?

  • You are "couch-surfing" and temporarily staying with friends or relatives.
  • You lost your housing, and now you live in various places, including motels, shelters, and campgrounds.
  • Each night, you sleep in places not designed for that purpose, like cars, parks, and even bus or train stations.

See Does My Living Situation Meet the Definition of Homelessness?

What are the schools required to do?

  • Recognize the children’s right to stay in the school they came from.
  • Willingly waive records requirements when it is in the child’s best interest to change schools.
  • Arrange transportation as necessary.
  • Authorize access to relevant programs for optimal success such as special education, gifted and talented, or tutoring programs.
  • Remember that unaccompanied youth have special protections which permit enrollment without proof of guardianship.
  • Allow the parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth to advocate for the best school option, even when they dispute school decisions regarding eligibility, enrollment, or school selection.  

Which school enrollment record requirements are waived according to the McKinney-Vento Act?

  • Proof of residency
  • Immunizations
  • Birth certificates
  • Guardianship documents

What happens if the school still demands the normal enrollment documents?

Once the school has gathered enough information to verify eligibility, it violates the McKinney-Vento Act for the school to insist that the homeless student and the family produce the documents.  

How can school personnel and community leaders assist?

  • Recognize the signs like appearance, performance, wearing the same clothes to school, or falling asleep in class.
  • Create a welcoming environment that invites the students to feel comfortable enough to ask for help.
  • Become trauma informed so that you can interact with appropriate sensitivity. Homeless students have often had difficult life experiences like abuse, violence, trafficking, hunger, and illness.
  • Evaluate school procedures to be sure they don’t negatively impact homeless students. They may need more time to complete assignments or might need help gathering resources.
  • Connect the students and their families to available community services and housing assistance.

Can the school help my child get back and forth to school?

Yes. Homeless students have a right to transportation to their school of origin, even if they move outside the zone or district. The assistance continues until the child has permanent housing. This service attempts to eliminate another factor that could rob students of peace of mind.

What if our chosen school district says enrollment is not in the best interest of the child?

The school district has to give you a written explanation about why they made that decision. Then, they must include instructions on how you can appeal the decision.

How are Texas schools required to carry out the mandate?

Every Texas public school, charter school and educational service center is designated as a local educational agency (LEA). These entities must

  • Appoint a staff person to act as a liaison in the community. Individuals can search for their respective liaison by using the AskTED online directory to search by school, district, county, or region.
  • Use a residency questionnaire to identify students who might potentially need a connection to resources.
  • Acquaint themselves with community partners like food banks, faith-based organizations, housing authorities, and shelters.

Does the school have to be designated Title I for the students to receive additional services?

No. Title I schools usually have student populations that are low-income. Therefore, they offer additional programming for services on Saturdays, counseling, literacy, and home tutoring. If the school is not already designated Title I, they can still access funding for the additional programming by applying for Title I – Part A funds which are set aside for special services. That way, students in need don’t have to miss out on valuable resources.  

What if the student is homeless and has a disability?

Students with disabilities have protected rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). The Act requires states and schools to locate and then evaluate children who may need special education and services. IDEA part B caters to children with disabilities and their parents, while part C focuses specifically on homeless infants and toddlers with disabilities. One special benefit offered is early intervention for infants and toddlers for special education and related services.

Where can I report McKinney-Vento violations?

You can contact the Texas Education Agency to use their McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Dispute Resolution Process.

How can I connect with other resources on the state and federal levels?

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