Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Schools have specific duties when dealing with homeless students

Communities across the country have begun the mandated biennial count of their homeless populations, but the rural homeless are likely to be among the most undercounted segments of that population. The count is required by the Department of Health and Human Services, though several states count the homeless every year, The Rural School and Community Trust reports. RSCT has provided a valuable resource for rural schools by outlining their responsibilities for dealing with homeless students. Homelessness is defined for schools by the McKinney-Vento Act. The definition includes people who are staying with someone else or living in substandard conditions, like a camper, tent, or an abandoned building. Homelessness also includes children who cannot live in their families' house, for whatever reason.

Homelessness presents a number of challenges for rural schools, which "need to figure out ways to identify children who may be experiencing homelessness and how to approach their families, without offending them, to talk about available services and educational opportunities," RSCT writes. Among the specific duties lined out for schools by the McKinney-Vento Act are employing a declassified staff person to serve as a homeless education liaison, immediately enrolling homeless students without a residency verification, specifically mentioning free lunch eligibility for those students and providing transportation to and from school. School may also not segregate homeless students and are required to take steps to avoid stigmatizing those students or their families. (Read more)

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