THE MCKINNEY-VENTO ACT
Homeless children and youth often have problems enrolling and participating in school. As a result, Congress passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in 1987. This law gives homeless children and youth the right to:
* Remain in the same school even if they move; Enroll in a new school without typically required records such as proof of residency, immunizations, school records, or other papers;
* Get transportation to school;
* Get all the school services they need; and
* Challenge decisions made by schools and districts.
DEFINING HOMELESSNESS: WHO IS COVERED BY THE MCKINNEY–VENTO ACT?
Any child or youth without a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence is considered “homeless” under the law. This includes students who are:
* Living with a friend, relative or someone else because they lost their home or their family is having temporary financial problems;
* Staying in a motel, hotel, trailer park, or campground because they have nowhere else to go;
* Living in a shelter, including emergency or transitional shelters, domestic violence shelters, and runaway and homeless youth shelters;
* Staying in substandard housing;
* Living in places not ordinarily used for sleeping, including cars, parks, public places, abandoned buildings, or bus or train stations;
* Awaiting foster care placement; or
* Abandoned in a hospital.
McKinney-Vento protects homeless youth who are not living with a parent or guardian. The law calls such students “unaccompanied youth.” These young people may include those who:
* Were asked to leave home by a parent;
* Left home with the consent of a parent;
* Have no formal custody papers or arrangements while their parents are in jail, the hospital, or a rehabilitation center; or
* Ran away from home.
Children and youth in homeless situations have the right to stay in the schools they attended before they lost their housing, or to stay at whatever school they were enrolled in last. These schools are called “schools of origin.” Students often benefit from staying in one school while they are homeless. Staying put means they are less likely to fall behind in their schoolwork, repeat a grade, receive unsatisfactory scores on standardized tests, or drop out of school. They can also find comfort with familiar teachers, friends, and activities.
Children and youth in homeless situations also have the right to transportation to their school or origin for the duration of their homelessness or until permanent housing is found. They also have rights to meals offered at school at no charge to the student.
For more information, contact the Director of State and Federal Programs, Jody Slaughter