Homeless Students: Enrollment Rights and Services
The Smithfield Public Schools enable the continuity of education and necessary services for homeless students as prescribed by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a component of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This Act requires districts, under most circumstances, to allow a homeless child to continue to attend his or her school of origin and entitles them to achieve the education standards set for all children.
Definition of Homeless Students
Homeless students are defined as lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including:
- Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing or economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as “doubled-up”)
- Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations.
- Living in emergency or transitional shelters.
- Being abandoned in hospitals.
- Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
- Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings
- Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.
- Unaccompanied youths out of the physical custody of their parent(s) or guardian(s).
Rights of Homeless Students and/or their Parents/Guardians
- Such students can remain enrolled or allowed to be re-enrolled in their school of origin until their homelessness ends or the end of the academic year in which they find permanent housing. Parents/guardians, however, can decide that it is not in their child’s best interest to remain in the school of origin and can enroll the child in the school located in their attendance area.
- Homeless families are entitled to the same rights as resident families. That would include attendance at the neighborhood school in the attendance area in which they are currently living.
- Homeless students will be provided district services for which they are eligible including Head Start and comparable preschool programs (Title I, similar state programs, special education). Also, bilingual education, vocational and technical education programs, and school nutrition programs.
- If there is an enrollment dispute, the student shall be immediately enrolled in the school in which enrollment is sought, pending resolution of the dispute. Parents can make appeals to the district liaison. The parent or guardian shall be informed of the district’s decision and their appeal rights in writing. Parents can make appeals to the Department of Education in the event of a dispute.
- Ensure that homeless children and youths are immediately enrolled in, and have full and equal opportunity to succeed in, Smithfield schools. Lack of immunization or education records shall not slow the enrollment process.
- Provide transportation for homeless students to their school of origin, sharing those costs with other districts if the school of origin is in another district or if the district’s students are returning to a school of origin within the district while living in another district.
The superintendent shall designate an appropriate staff member as the district homeless liaison. Liaisons must ensure that:
- Homeless children and youths are identified by school personnel through outreach and coordination activities with other entities and agencies;
- Homeless children and youths are enrolled in, and have full and equal opportunity to succeed in, Smithfield schools;
- Homeless families and homeless children and youths have access to and receive educational services for which such families, children, and youths are eligible, including services through Head Start programs (including Early Head Start programs), early intervention services under Part C of the IDEA, and other preschool programs;
- Homeless families and homeless children and youths receive referrals to health, dental, mental health, and substance abuse services, housing services, and other appropriate services;
- Parents or guardians of homeless children and youths are informed of educational and related opportunities available to their children and are provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children;
- Public notice of the educational rights of homeless students is disseminated in locations frequented by parents and guardians of such children and youths, and unaccompanied youths, including schools, shelters, public libraries, and soup kitchens, in a manner and form understandable to the parents and guardians and unaccompanied youths;
- Enrollment disputes are mediated in accordance with the requirements of the McKinney Vento Act;
- Parents and guardians and unaccompanied youths are fully informed of all transportation services, including transportation to and from the school of origin and are assisted in accessing transportation services;
- School personnel receive professional development and other support; and
- Unaccompanied youths are informed of their status as independent students under section 480 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) (20 U.S.C. 1087vv), and their right to receive verification of this status from the local liaison. 17 (Section 722(g)(6)(A).