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Helping Children Who Are Homeless - A Checklist for School Officials

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Produced by Massachusetts legal services' Domestic Violence and School Safety Workgroup
Created March, 2007

This Checklist is designed to help school departments, administrators, and staff
help homeless children and work with their parents to secure their educational
rights under the McKinney-Vento law. The Checklist has information and suggestions
about how to help homeless children affected by domestic violence secure their
school choice rights safely.

In this Checklist "DESE" refers to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Identify Homeless Children

A child is homeless if he or she

lives in emergency shelters

stays with friends or family members

lives in transitional shelters

stays in motels, hotels, trailer parks or campgrounds

lives in public or private places that are not normally used as residences

Homeless children in your area can be identified by

Contacting shelters and transitional housing in the area to inform them of
children's rights and assistance available to them.

Providing shelters with written information about McKinney

Putting posters or other informational aids in locations accessible to homeless
children and their families. Some ready made posters can be found at:

Making a list of known addresses of shelters, hotels, campgrounds and trailer
parks so that school registrars can recognize addresses that may indicate homelessness.

Know what to do even if the child does not have all required records and
paperwork to enroll

Even if a child does not have the proper paperwork and files, under the act
children are permitted to enroll and participate in all school activities immediately.

The new school liaison and the old school liaison must work together to transfer
the records. It is the school's obligation under the McKinney-Vento act to
obtain the records.

If the parent does not want people to know their whereabouts

Use an intermediary to transfer records.

Discuss with parent possible people who could act as an intermediary. Should
be someone the parent trusts to get the records without disclosing the new

  • Possible intermediaries include family members, social workers, friends,
    or someone from the DESE Office for the Education of Homeless Children and
  • Tips for choosing an intermediary:

Ideally not someone who lives in the town where the family has relocated to,
so as to protect the family's new location.

Someone the parents trust.

  • The parent will need to provide a release form to authorize them to obtain
    the child's records.

Is the parent leaving your school? If so, have them sign the release before
they leave naming the intermediary.

  • If you cannot think of another place, could have the records sent to a
    service organization such as a legal services agency and pick them up there
    or have them fax a copy to you to give to the school.

Remember, children staying in some places like domestic violence shelters may
not be able to put their current address on the records for safety reasons.
The parent has the right to have his or her safety protected.

Deal with issues of responsibility for providing transportation

If you are the original school district, it is your district’s responsibility
to provide transportation to the original school if the child is to remain
enrolled there no matter where they reside.

Your school district is also responsible for transportation within the district
if the child remains within the district.

If the child needs transportation between two districts the old district and
the temporary district must agree on a method for payment. If no agreement is
made, then they must both split the costs 50/50.

The child and family are not responsible for any of the transportation costs.

Be sure that the child’s transportation is safe

Re-route an existing bus route

A bus driver could add a new stop or make the child who is in hiding the first
on last off so other children do not know where they are staying.

Hire a private bus/van/car for the child's transportation.

Provide money for public transportation i.e. bus/train/subway tokens or passes

Reimburse child or parents for gas and mileage if they drive to the school.

If none of these options works, a great way to identify transportation options
will best suit the parent's needs and safety concerns for the child would be
to sit down with the parents.

Know your school district’s responsibilities if there is a parent whose
child is fits under the McKinney Act, but the parent does not agree with the
school's decisions

The school must

provide notice to the liaison that includes an explanation of what is challenged
and a notice of the right to appeal the challenge.

provide corresponding DESE forms attached.

The Liaison must:

provide a copy to the parents within the same day of their right to appeal.

provide that the parent's rights are clear and easy to understand.

provide that if the parents do not read English that the rights must be written
or translated into the language they can read.

provide information and contact information for Massachusetts Advocates for
the Education of Homeless Children and Youths. (Current contact information
for MAEHCY can be obtained by calling (800) 308-2145.)

notify DESE and provide them with copies of the notices.

What happens next

The school then has two working days to come to a final decision about the

At the end of the two days, the superintendent must put the final decision in
writing including all reasons (factual and legal) for the decision.

The decision must be given to the liaison in the same day. The liaison will
then provide a copy to the parent on the same day they receive it.

Who to call for help

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