What Schools Need to Know

What schools need to know about homeless students

Homeless families move frequently. Several school moves can cause students to fall behind.
Homeless students may feel the need to “cover-up” to avoid embarrassments. Many homeless students act aggressively and are labeled troublemakers.

Often homeless students can become depressed due to their living conditions. They may withdraw and show a lack of effort.

What is legally required?

The Stewart B. McKinney Act, which was passed by Congress in 1987, sets forth conditions for educating homeless children. Under this Act, schools must:

  • Provide every homeless child access to public education.
  • Gather data and develop plans for educating homeless children.
  • Maintain homeless children in the school they are attending or enroll them in the district where they are residing (whichever is in the best interest of the child) for the entire school year.
  • Provide services for homeless students comparable to the services offered to all other students in the school, including transportation.
  • Maintain homeless children’s records so they are timely and available.

In addition, 1990 amendments to the bill require schools to:

  • Develop policies to remove barriers to enrolling homeless students.
  • Put in writing, plans to provide transportation for homeless students.
  • Document how they are handling enrollment delays caused by immunization requirements, guardian issues and lack of birth certificates or school records.
  • Develop plans for staff training on the educational needs of homeless children and ensure that homeless children are not isolated or stigmatized.