Many of our helpline calls involve cases with students in temporary housing who are not enrolled immediately and face many barriers to attending school.
An aunt and uncle took in several of their nieces and nephews when their sister (the children’s mother) was evicted from her apartment and didn’t have anywhere for herself and her children. The aunt and uncle attempted to register the children for school and wanted to set up transportation from their home, which is in the neighboring school district. The mother was receiving some assistance in finding new housing, but with a long waiting list, nothing had transpired at the start of the new school year. Although the best interest of the children is to remain in their school of origin, the registration office turned the aunt away as she didn’t have their birth certificates. That’s when she called the Helpline for assistance. Upon connecting her with the McKinney-Vento liaison in the school of origin, we thought enrollment would be quickly managed. Over the next several days the aunt and uncle faced multiple barriers and frustrations. While the liaison assisted with completing the registration forms in the McKinney-Vento office, there was no coordinated plan with the registration office down the hall. Ultimately the children missed a week and a half of the new school year.
Questions to ask:
Are these students McKinney-Vento eligible?
Can a school district decline a student’s enrollment based on lack of documentation (such as birth certificates)?
What does a family need to provide to the district to register their children under McKinney-Vento?
How can the McKinney-Vento liaison assist the family in the enrollment process?
1. Review the McKinney-Vento Act and New York State guidance regarding families and McKinney-Vento eligibility. As always, you can find a wealth of resources on eligibility right here on our Determining Eligibility for M-V | NYSTEACHS.
2. After reviewing the rules on eligibility, if you’re still unsure of what to advise, you are encouraged to call the helpline for assistance: 1-800-388-2014.
1: Are these students McKinney-Vento eligible?
Yes, based on the children living doubled up with another family, after an eviction, the students are McKinney-Vento eligible.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines “homeless children and youths” as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes children and youths who are: sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, 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; or abandoned in hospitals; (Education Law §3209(1)(a); 8 NYCRR §100.2(x)(1); see also 42 USC §11434A(2)(B)(i); U.S. DOE’s Non-Regulatory Guidance, Question A-2,)
The federal McKinney-Vento Act and New York Education Law Section 3209 provide important school selection and enrollment protections to preschool-12th grade students in temporary housing. Parents or unaccompanied youth in temporary housing may have up to three choices to enroll in school. They can choose:
The school attended or was entitled to attend when circumstances arose which caused the child or youth to become homeless.
The school last enrolled, even if the student was temporarily housed during that time, or
The local school where the student is currently temporarily housed.
2: Can a school district decline a MV eligible student’s enrollment based on lack of documentation (such as birth certificates)?
No, a school district may not decline to enroll a student based on missing documentation, including birth certificates, immunizations, or paperwork. The goal is immediate enrollment under the McKinney-Vento Act. All documentation, including birth certificates, may be obtained after the students begin attending school, and the liaison should assist the family with gathering the items the registration office requires so that transportation is set up and attendance can begin immediately.
1. Under the McKinney-Vento Act, schools must enroll homeless children and youths regardless of whether they have the required documents for enrollment (including immunization records and proof of age) or have missed application or enrollment deadlines (see, e.g., section 722(g)(3)(C)). Enrollment includes attending classes and participating fully in any services, programs, and extracurricular activities that the school offers to students. (See section 725(1)).
2. As soon as a parent/caregiver or unaccompanied youth makes a school selection decision, the students have the right to immediate enrollment, even if they are missing documents usually required to enroll. Students also have the right to maintain enrollment for the rest of the academic year in which they find permanent housing, even if the new housing is outside of the school district where they attend school. In New York State, students may continue in the same school for an additional year if that year is the student's terminal year in the school (for example, 12th grade).
3: What does a family need to provide to the district to register their children under McKinney-Vento?
The family would need to provide information regarding their living situation on the housing questionnaire to document McKinney-Vento eligibility and provide any records they possess at the time of enrollment. The children are entitled to enroll and attend classes immediately while the district gathers all necessary paperwork required for enrollment even if they need more immunizations (those appointments can be set up and the family would have 30 days). McKinney-Vento liaisons should work closely with the registration/enrollment office staff to ensure that barriers are eliminated so that children can attend school immediately. Liaisons can assist with obtaining any missing documentation over time, the important aspect is to get the children to school without delay.
4: How can the McKinney-Vento liaison assist the family in the enrollment process?
There are many ways the McKinney-Vento liaison can assist the family in the enrollment process. The liaison assists the family in completing the enrollment forms, including the STAC form. They could meet with the registration office and family together to smooth out the paperwork requirements. The liaison can remind the registration office staff that McKinney-Vento stipulates immediate enrollment. The liaison can assist with requesting records that are needed once the students are enrolled and attending school. The liaison would set up transportation for the students and will coordinate any additional benefits and services the children may require.
There is a lengthy list of liaison responsibilities in both federal and state law that would ensure the prompt identification and enrollment of eligible students.
Local Liaisons must ensure that:
students in temporary housing are identified by school personnel through outreach and coordination activities with other entities and agencies.
students in temporary housing are enrolled in and have a full and equal opportunity to succeed in school.
the parents or guardians of students in temporary housing have access to and receive educational services for which they are eligible, including services through Head Start programs (including Early Head Start programs), early intervention services, and other preschool programs administered by the local educational agency.
students and their families in temporary housing receive referrals to health care services, dental services, mental health and substance abuse services, housing services, and other appropriate services.
students and their families in temporary housing are informed of the educational and related opportunities available to their children and are provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children.
public notices of the educational rights of students experiencing homelessness (for i.e., posters and brochures) is disseminated in locations frequented by families and youth experiencing homelessness, including schools, shelters public libraries, and soup kitchens, in a manner and form understandable to parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth.
enrollment disputes are mediated in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
the parents or guardians of students in temporary housing, and unaccompanied youth, are fully informed about transportation services available to them, including transportation to the school of origin.
School personnel working with children and youth experiencing homelessness receive professional development and other support.
Unaccompanied homeless youth are enrolled in school.
Unaccompanied homeless youth are informed about their status as independent students for college financial aid and are given assistance to receive financial aid.
Unaccompanied homeless youth have opportunities to meet the same State academic achievement standards as other children and youth, and that the school district removes barriers that could prevent students in temporary housing from receiving partial or full credit for the coursework they may have completed at a prior school.
42 U.S.C. § 11432 (g)(6)(A).