School rights of children experiencing homelessness

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Are you experiencing homelessness? Your child has the right to stay in the same school.

It is important for children experiencing homelessness to have their education disrupted as little as possible. Schools are responsible for making sure these children’s rights are protected. If you work at a school, see this checklist for school officials.

If you are. . .

  • staying in a shelter or motel,
  • doubling up with friends or family,
  • staying someplace people are not meant to live, or
  • having trouble finding a place to stay,

you have the right to choose your child’s school.

This can mean:

  • Your child can keep going to the same school, or
  • You can choose a new school for your child where you live now.
If my child needs to stay in the same school

The school must pick your child up at their new home or shelter, if it is not too far away. The school districts

  • where your child lives, and
  • where your child goes to school

must work together to get your child to school. 

Tell the school why it is important for your child to stay at their school. If your child has a disability, tell the school.

If I choose a new school

The school must enroll your child right away. Tell the new school you are homeless. You do not need to give the school proof of where you live. The school can get any papers they need after your child is already going to school. The school must give your child the same transportation and services it gives all other children.

What if the school doesn’t allow my child to enroll, stay at school, or give us transportation?

The school must give you a letter that explains its decision.

Appeal — write to the school. List the reasons why you disagree with their decision.

If you appeal, the school must provide transportation until your appeal is decided.

Resource Boxes
More Resources
School - Homelessness

Education of Homeless Children and Youth Program
State Coordinator Shirley Fan-Chan
(781) 338-6310

Call your school and ask for your local Homeless Education Liaison. Or, search online. Under the “Function” dropdown list, choose “Homeless Liaison.”

The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice 
(617) 482-8686

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
(781) 595-7570

Children's Law Center of Massachusetts
(781) 581-1977

Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Helpline: (617) 357-8431 ext. 3224 
Multilingual Voicemail: Español, Português, Kreyòl ayisyen, Tiếng Việt, 中文


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