Homeless Children/Youth Have the Right to a Free, Appropriate Public Education
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is federal legislation that protects “homeless” school age children/youth by ensuring school stability. Entitlements such as transportation, free lunch program, and immediate enrollment assist in removing barriers to their education.
Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Who is homeless?
Children/youth are considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence and have lost their “permanent” housing due to a causal event such as: eviction, fire, flood, natural disaster, domestic violence situation, substandard housing or economic hardship. A youth who has run away, been thrown out of their home by their parents or who is living on their own may also be defined as homeless. These families may be “doubled up” with family or friends (not by choice) or living in a shelter, transitional housing, motel, vehicle or on the street due to a lack of housing.
Is there any reason to delay enrolling a homeless child/youth?
No! One of the entitlements under McKinney-Vento is the right of immediate enrollment, even if parents/students lack records normally required for enrollment such as birth certificates, academic records, medical records (including immunizations) and proof of residency. Enrollment is defined as attending classes and participating fully in school activities.
Does residency have to be proven?
No. Because homeless families are unable to establish a “home” on a permanent basis, a school cannot require proof of residency that might prevent or delay enrollment of school-age children.
How is it decided where the student will attend school?
The law indicates that the Local Education Agency (LEA) shall, according to the child/youth’s “best interest”, continue the student’s education in the school of origin (where they were attending when they lost their permanent housing) for the duration of the homelessness or assist in the enrollment process to the school district where they temporarily are housed. It is the right of the parent/guardian to choose which school, although it is in the best interest of the student, for stability purposes, to stay in the school of origin as long as it is feasible.
Colonial School District's Homeless Liaison
The Pennsylvania Department of Education mandates that every LEA in Pennsylvania designate a district Homeless Liaison. The Colonial School District’s Homeless Liaison is Meghann Radick, Home/School Visitor. If you have any questions, concerns or information about a student’s housing circumstances as it may pertain to possible homelessness, please contact Meghann Radick at 610-834-1670, ext. 2108, or click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on the links below for more resources and information:
- Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program Dispute Resolution Process and links to Dispute Letters in English and Spanish
- Education for Homeless Youth page on the Pennsylvania Department of Education website
- Printable guide for homeless families (English)
- Printable guide for homeless families (Spanish)