Homeless Youth in Education

In 1987 President Reagan signed the McKinney-Vento Act into law.  The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal mandate created to ensure students experiencing homelessness have the right to an equal and fair education.  Stanislaus County Office of Education supports the McKinney-Vento Act by assisting school districts, families, and community agencies. 

Definition

The McKinney-Vento Act defines the term homeless as any individual lacking a fixed, regular, adequate night-time residence.
If a family, child, or youth is living in one of the following (see examples below) please contact the district liaison to find out more information.

Examples:

  • Hotel, Motel
  • Trailer
  • Vehicle
  • Shelter
  • Public Space
  • Abandoned building
  • Youth not in the care of a parent or guardian
  • Living with another family due to financial reasons
  • Any place not designated to live

What does fixed, regular, and adequate mean?

Fixed: Securely placed or fastened; Not subject to change or fluctuation. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.) A fixed residence is one that is stationary, permanent, and not subject to change.

Regular: Normal, standard; Constituted, conducted, or done in conformity with established or prescribed usages, rules, or discipline; Recurring, attending, or functioning at fixed or uniform intervals. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.) Consistent. (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, 3rd Edition.) A regular residence is one which is used on a regular (i.e., nightly) basis.

Adequate: Sufficient for a specific requirement; Lawfully and reasonably sufficient. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.) Fully sufficient; Equal to what is required; Lawfully and reasonably sufficient. (Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, 3rd Edition.) An adequate residence is one that is sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments.

Adapted from migrationpoilcy.org


INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT CALIFORNIA

 


Stanislaus County School District Homeless Education Liaisons


 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND INFORMATION

Liaisons and School Personnel
Though homeless children and youths may face great challenges, teachers, school leaders, counselors and other caring school staff can ensure that a student's rights are upheld and can work to connect students to other supports can make a world of difference. 
  • Create a welcoming climate and build trust with all students.
  • Help to identify and support homeless students.
  • Be sensitive and understanding.
  • Ensure that school and classroom policies and procedures, such as disciplinary policies, are fair to homeless students and do not negatively impact them because of their homelessness
  • Learn more about the McKinney-Vento Act and connect with your local liaison.

 

Families and Unaccompanied Youth

Community

 

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Contact Us

1100 H Street
Modesto, CA 95354

Key Contacts

headshot of Victoria Gonzalez
Victoria Gonzalez
Student Support Specialist

Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS OPERATION BACKPACK?

WHAT IS OPERATION BACKPACK?

Operation Backpack is Volunteers of America's annual campaign to help children in need be prepared and excited for their first day of school.  SCOE collaborates with Volunteers of America and collects backpacks and school supplies to support low-income and homeless families in the Stanislaus County area. Since 2008, we have collected over 6,000 backpacks for children in need.  New backpacks filled with supplies, and affixed with a completed school supply list can be dropped off at any of the DROP-OFF LOCATIONS now through July 31, 2018.

See more information at www.stancoe.org/go/backpack 

Do school districts have the responsibility to identify or locate children and youth experiencing homelessness?

Yes. The McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to ensure that “homeless children and youths are identified by school personnel and through coordination with other entities and agencies.” 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(6)(A). The purpose of identification is to offer appropriate services to the family, child or youth.

Is there any guidance on what “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” means?

The McKinney-Vento Act states that children and youth who lack “a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence” will be considered homeless. 42 U.S.C. §11434A(2), but the Act does not define those terms. However, the following definitions may provide guidance:

  1. Fixed: Securely placed or fastened; Not subject to change or fluctuation. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.) A fixed residence is one that is stationary, permanent, and not subject to change.
  2. Regular: Normal, standard; Constituted, conducted, or done in conformity with established or prescribed usages, rules, or discipline; Recurring, attending, or functioning at fixed or uniform intervals. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.) Consistent. (Ballentine's Law Dictionary, 3rd Edition.) A regular residence is one which is used on a regular (i.e., nightly) basis.
  3. Adequate: Sufficient for a specific requirement; Lawfully and reasonably sufficient. (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.) Fully sufficient; Equal to what is required; Lawfully and reasonably sufficient. (Ballentine's Law Dictionary, 3rd Edition.) An adequate residence is one that is sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments.  International law defines adequate as follows: “Adequate shelter means ... adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location with regard to work and basic facilities - all at a reasonable cost.” International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 4, paragraph 7 (1991), citing Commission on Human Settlements and the Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000.
Is there a time limit on how long a child or youth can be considered homeless?

No, there is no specific time limit on homelessness. Whether a child or youth meets the definition of homelessness depends upon the living situation and the individual circumstances. It is a case-specific inquiry. Due to the extremely limited incomes of most families experiencing homelessness (on average, less than half the federal poverty line) and the severe shortage of affordable housing across the country, experiences of homelessness can sometimes last an extended period of time.

Are families who move in with relatives or friends covered by the Act?

In many circumstances, yes. Children and youth who are sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason are covered by the McKinney-Vento Act. 42 U.S.C. §11434A(2)(B)(i). Families who share adequate housing due to cultural preferences or convenience would not be covered by the Act. Also, families who are sharing housing on a permanent basis are unlikely to be covered by the Act.

Is transitional housing considered a homeless situation?

Yes. The McKinney-Vento Act specifically applies to children and youth living in transitional shelters. 42 U.S.C. §11434A(2)(B)(i). This term includes transitional housing programs and transitional living programs. A federal court affirmed that transitional housing programs are covered by the McKinney-Vento Act. Bullock v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, Civ. A. DKC 2002-0798 (D. Md.), memorandum decision filed November 4, 2002.

What ages does the McKinney-Vento Act cover?

The McKinney-Vento Act applies to children and youth age 21 and under, consistent with their eligibility for public education services under state and federal law. State laws vary, but generally provide access to all students until high school graduation or equivalent, or until age 18 (or over in some states). For special education students, federal law provides the right to access services until age 22. 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(1)(A).

What are a district's responsibilities for advising families about their rights if families do not identify or consider themselves as homeless?

Families and youth in homeless situations frequently will not identify themselves as such. This may be due to the stigma and prejudices associated with homelessness or because the youth or family does not recognize that the living situation would be considered a homeless situation under the McKinney-Vento Act. Indeed, most families and youth are likely unaware of the McKinney-Vento Act. Therefore, schools must ensure that families and youth are aware of the Act, who it covers, and what it provides. 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(6)(A)(i), (iv). The Act requires school districts to disseminate public notice of the education rights of children and youth in homeless situations where such children and youth receive services, such as schools, family shelters, and soup kitchens. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(6)(A)(v). Identification and outreach techniques must be administered sensitively and without stigma, to create an environment in which families, children and youth will be comfortable seeking support. Once a school has sensitively and discretely explained the rights available under the McKinney-Vento Act, families or youth may choose not to take advantage of McKinney-Vento services, at their discretion.

Can a district refuse to enroll undocumented immigrants who have no proof of guardianship?

No, not if they are covered by the McKinney-Vento Act. Undocumented students have the same right to public education as U.S. citizens. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). Therefore, the McKinney-Vento Act applies to them in the same way it would apply to any student: if the student meets the definition of homeless, he or she must be enrolled in school immediately, even if lacking proof of guardianship. The McKinneyVento Act does not apply to immigrant students who live in a fixed, regular and adequate residence.

What factors should be considered for keeping children at their school of origin to the extent feasible?

Students must be allowed to attend their school of origin "to the extent feasible." [School of origin is defined as the school the student attended when permanently housed, or the school in which the student was last enrolled. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(G).] Changing schools significantly impedes students’ academic and social growth. The literature on highly mobile students indicates that it can take a student four to six months to recover academically after changing schools. Many studies also have found highly mobile students to have lower test scores and overall academic performance than peers who do not change schools. Therefore, the McKinney-Vento Act calls for school districts to maintain students in their school of origin to the extent feasible, unless that is against the wishes of the parent of guardian. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3). Students have the right to attend the school of origin; this provides continuity of instruction, teachers, and peers. Considerations for changing schools, other than as a result of a parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth’s wishes, must be based on a student-centered, individualized determination. Factors that may be considered include: the age of the child or youth; the impact the commute may have on the student’s education; personal safety issues; the students’ need for special instruction; length of anticipated stay in temporary shelter or other temporary location; and time remaining in the school year. There may be other student-centered factors not enumerated here that will help determine feasibility. Above all, feasibility is a child-centered decision.