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Legal Rights of Students Experiencing Homelessness. Definition of "Homeless Children and Youth". Those who who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including: sharing the housing of other persons due to hardship

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definition of homeless children and youth
Definition of "Homeless Children and Youth"

Those who who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including:

sharing the housing of other persons due to hardship

living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations

living in emergency or transitional shelters

abandoned in hospitals or awaiting foster care placement

in a primary nighttime residence not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings

living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings

migratory children who live in any of the circumstances described above. 

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 11434a(2) (A) and (B)

"Unaccompanied youth" includes a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or a guardian. 42 U.S.C. 11434a(6)

definition of homelessness
Definition of Homelessness
  • Very broad to facilitate educational stability.
  • Look at where the youth actually lives or sleeps- this can be a number of places.
  • Affirmative duty of schools to sensitively identify these situations. 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(6)(A)(i)
choice of schools
Choice of Schools

A homeless child must be allowed to enroll in (at least) one of the following three schools:

the school last attended;

the school attended when the child was last permanently housed; or

the school that non-homeless children who live in the same attendance area in which the homeless child or youth lives are eligible to attend.

Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act, Section 105 ILCS 45/1-10 and the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(A).

school choice enrollment
School Choice & Enrollment

Immediate Enrollment means:

“attending classes and participating fully in school activities.” 42 U.S.C. 11434a(1)


Even without records normally needed for enrollment 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(C)(i)

Welcoming attitude – don’t “stigmatize” or segregate 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(1)(J)(i) and 42 U.S.C. 11432(e)(3)

Immediate enrollment in free breakfast and lunch – categorical eligibility

Provide fee waivers, supplies, uniforms, community resources and information

Unaccompanied youth DO NOT need an adult to enroll 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(B)(iii)

The enrolling school must immediately contact thelast school to obtain academic and other records 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(C)(ii)

If immunizations are required, the school must give the student a referral 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(C)(iii)

notice to youth families and community
Notice to Youth, Families and Community

Posters & brochures to be placed at: libraries, pantries, stores, churches, shelters, public aid offices, bus station, health clinics, school lobby, office 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(6)(A)(v)

Free and low cost materials available through National Center for Homeless Education, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and Opening Doors

Notice of right to appeal: list of free and low cost legal help and advocacy 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(B)(ii) and (iii), 105 ILCS 45/1-25(c)

transportation services
Transportation Services

Available only to homeless students attending their previous school 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(1)(J)(iii)

Extends to and from school and includes transportation for school-related activities continuously through the end of the academic year in which permanently housed

Districts must share the costs

In Chicago, fare cards for CTA provided for students (and parents if the student is in the 6th grade or under). School bus provided for younger students whose parents unable to transport on CTA

enrollment attendance success
Enrollment, Attendance & Success

Broad mandate for district: to revise any policies which act as a barrier to these 42 U.S.C. 11431(2) and 11432(g)(1)(I)

Note that the requirement pertains not just to enrollment policies but also ATTENDANCE and SUCCESS

requires examination of:

Formal and informal policies

Standard practices including forms, schedules

enrollment disputes
Enrollment Disputes

When “dispute arises” the district must advise fully of rights, refer to ombudsperson and free or low cost legal advocate 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(3)(E) and 105 ILCS 45/1-25(a) and (c)

Regional Superintendent of Schools appoints ombudsperson 105 ILCS 45/1-25(a)

School MUST immediately enroll and transport to the parent or youth’s choice of schools pending full resolution 105 ILCS 45/1-25(a)

Specific written statement as to why school disagrees with youth or family 105 ILCS 45/1-25(a)

Convene meeting in 5 days, if possible 105 ILCS 45/1-25(a)

“Fair and impartial” hearing 105 ILCS 45/1-25(a)

Residency hearing inappropriate

State Board of Education Policy sets out process, rights

liaisons for the education of homeless students
Liaisons for the Education of Homeless Students
      • Every school district must have liaison with responsibility to ensure McKinney-Vento implementation
      • Facilitate transportation arrangements
      • Be aware of resources for homeless and indigent children and youth in the area, region and state.
  • Ensure outreach: homeless children and youth NOT in school are found and enrolled.
  • Ensure students receive all services- free lunch, fee waivers, Head Start, Even Start, etc.
  • Assist youth and families with the resolution of disputes and ensures that the district follows process.
  • Act as an ADVOCATE for homeless students
chicago public schools
Chicago Public Schools

Chicago Public Schools Homeless Education Program Office coordinates all programs and services for homeless students in CPS.

  • Pat Rivera (773) 553-2242

EVERY CPS School is required to have a homeless liaison.

serving homeless preschoolers
Serving Homeless Preschoolers

Responsibility of the district and the McKinney-Vento Liaisons to:

  • Provide outreach in the community to homeless families with preschool age children
  • Identify and immediately enroll homeless preschool-age children without records or prescreening
  • Ensure that homeless children have equal access to ISBE-funded preschools
  • Homeless children are a priority
residency issues
Residency Issues
  • Residency provisions of the Illinois School Code are “subject to” the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b(g)
  • Sometimes children/youth can be entitled to attend the district BOTH as a homeless student AND as a resident.
  • Residency materials (forms, websites) should acknowledge the rights of homeless students.
residency continued
Residency Continued…

Any Illinois student has the right to finish the school year in the same school, even if that child moves out of the district. 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12a

residency nos
Residency “NOs”
  • NO requirement for a court order of guardianship
  • NO requirement about a set number of days, weeks or months a child must live in the district
  • NO 24-7 requirement.

105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b(a)(2)

more on residency
More on Residency…
      • A school district CANNOT require one particular form of proof of residency 23 Ill Admin. Code 1.240(b)
          • Example: School districts should not require a driver’s license as “must have” proof.
          • This is especially important for undocumented students
  • No student can validly enroll in school if he/she lives within a district solely for the purpose of accessing the schools of the district. 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b(a)
legal custody
Legal Custody
      • Residence of a person who has legal custody of a pupil is deemed to be residence of the pupil
  • Illinois school code defines “legal custody” broadly
  • Includes parents with whom pupil resides; court-ordered; short-term guardianship; “adult caretaker relative”
  • Also includes custody exercised by an adult who has assumed legal responsibility for the pupil and provides the pupil with a regular, fixed, nighttime abode (ISBE Affidavit)

105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b

waiver of school fees
Waiver of School Fees
  • School fees can be a significant expense that unaccompanied youth cannot afford.
  • Illinois School Code requires schools to waive school fees for students who cannot afford them “including, but not limited to students eligible for free lunch” 105 ILCS 5/10-20.13(b)
fees that must be waived
Fees that MUST be Waived
  • Charges for textbooks, instructional materials
  • Deposits for use of school property
  • Field trips during or after school hours
  • Uniforms or equipment for sports or fine arts
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Driver’s Ed
  • Graduation Fees

23 Ill. Adm. Code 1.245(b)(1)(A)-(J)

fees that are not required to be waived
Fees that are NOT required to be waived
  • Ordinary school supplies
  • Library fines or charges for damage to school property
  • Class rings, yearbooks, pictures
  • Optional travel by groups of students outside school hours
  • Admission to dances or sporting fees

23 Ill. Adm. Code 1.245(b)(2)(A)-(E)


Schools MUST remove barriers to






Illinois law requires that minors between the ages of 7 and 17 attend school unless the student has graduated 105 ILCS 5/26-1

right to reenroll in school
Right to Reenroll in School
  • Entitled to reenroll in school anytime before turning 21 years old.
  • Can enroll in traditional or alternative schools
  • A youth 19 years of age or older CANNOT be denied reenrollment because of age or lack of credits UNLESS the district first provides due process (i.e. a hearing). 105 ILCS 5/26-2(b)
  • If denied reenrollment, must give counseling and information on alternative education programs. 105 ILCS 5/26-2(b)
alternative education programs
Alternative Education Programs

CPS- “Graduation Pathways”

  • Achievement Academies
  • CPS Virtual High School
  • Evening High School
  • Smaller Learning Communities
  • Early Interventions (for 9th graders)
  • Freshman Connection
  • Youth Connection Charter School Programs
  • Hotline (773) 553-5110
  • Reenrollment “facilitators”
youth connection charter schools
Youth Connection Charter Schools
  • 23 campuses
  • Serve youth 17 or older who have previously dropped out of school
  • Limited number of spots- will make room for homeless students
  • Part of the Alternative School Network
  • Smaller adult to student ratio
  • CPS Schools
  • Will receive a YCCS diploma
dual enrollment programs
Dual Enrollment Programs
  • Part of the CPS Youth Connection Charter School Program
  • Available at Truman Middle College or Olive-Harvey Middle College
credit recovery
Credit Recovery
  • Part of “Enrollment, Attendance and Success”
  • Options (varies with school district)
    • Online Courses
      • Ex: Illinois Virtual High School Online
    • Evening or Saturday Courses
      • Offered at many CPS High Schools
    • Correspondence Courses
      • Ex: American School, Indiana University
    • Summer School
equal access to school
Equal Access to School


Schools cannot exclude or segregate …or discriminate against any pupil on the basis of color, race, nationality, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ancestry, age, marital status, or physical or mental handicap or status of being homeless. 23 IL Admin. Code 1.240(b)

This includes Transgender youth

Immigration Status

Can’t deny access to schools or programs to students who lack documentation of immigration status or legal presence in the U.S., or inquire about immigration status Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)).

Proof of residency for a student shall not require proof of legal presence, such as a Social Security number. Permissible combinations of documents must be sufficiently variable to afford an opportunity for those who lack proof of legal presence or immigration status to meet requirements. 23 IL Admin. Code 1.240(b

equal access continued
Equal Access Continued…

23 IL Admin. Code 1.240

  • No school district shall impose requirements for enrollment more restrictive than those established under relevant Illinois and federal law. For example, no school system shall require court-ordered guardianship when an individual enrolling a student meets the legal custody requirements of Section 10-20.12b(a)(2)(iv) or (v) of the School Code [105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b(a)(2)(iv) or (v)], and each school system shall immediately enroll and serve homeless children without requiring the provision of any documentation, in accordance with the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act [105 ILCS 45] and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act [42 USC 11434].
pregnant and parenting students
Pregnant and Parenting Students

NOT a reason to ban students from attending school or participating in any type of program or activity.

  • Treated as a ‘temporary disability’
  • Must offer home instruction, correspondence courses or other alternatives, if necessary
  • Services available for up to three months following the birth or miscarriage

**Also Protected from Discrimination**

problem 1
Problem # 1

Paula is a case manager at the Youth Futures Transitional Housing Program in Chicago. One of her clients, Peter, wants to enroll in school. Peter finished his sophomore year at Jones High School in Oak Park, but has not been to school in almost three years. Peter is now 19 years old.

  • What are Peter’s options for attending school?
  • What should the school/school district offer Peter?
problem 1 continued
Problem # 1 Continued…

Paula takes Peter to Williams High School (a CPS school). An administrator says Peter cannot enroll at Williams because he is too old and he would not be able to acquire the necessary credits to graduate before he turned 21.

  • What should Peter and Paula do?
problem 2
Problem # 2

Tim is the coordinator of drop in services at the Youth Center. One of his clients, Stacy (16 y.o.), is not currently attending school.

Stacy’s parents kicked her out of school last year and she is currently homeless. She stays with friends sometimes, but often has to sleep on CTA trains or park benches throughout the city.

Tim encourages Stacy to reenroll in school. He brings her to Johnson High School, the closest high school to the home of one of her friends to enroll her.

The registrar tells Tim that he cannot enroll Stacy because he is not her parent or guardian. The registrar also tells Tim that Stacy cannot attend Johnson because she is not living within the school’s attendance area.

1. What law/policies have been violated by the school?

2. What should Tim do?

problem 2 continued
Problem #2 Continued…

Tim successfully enrolls Stacy at Johnson High School.

  • What services should the school/district provide Stacy as a homeless student?
  • What if she is pregnant?
  • How should the district treat Stacy if she is transgender?