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U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Clarify ESSA Provisions Designed to Protect Homeless Youth

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance to Clarify ESSA Provisions Designed to Protect Homeless Youth

On October 1, 2016, the new provisions included in the reauthorized McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youths program will go into effect.

These provisions, included in the Every Student Succeeds Act, are designed to better help homeless children residing in the U.S. In order to best help schools understand the responsibilities they will soon have, the U.S. Department of Education has issued a guidance today.

According to the Department, "students who experience high mobility and attend many different schools over the course of their education often slip academically with each move. Recognizing these challenges, this guidance offers technical assistance on promising practices for helping homeless youth through the implementation of homeless education requirements at the State and local levels, focusing particular attention on changes under ESSA.”

While the McKinney-Vento Education for the Homeless Children and Youths program was designed to protect homeless children and youth in schools since 1987, the latest amendments to the legislation are intended to take that protection even further.

Under the new amendments, schools will for the first time be required to identify homeless children and youth and ensure that pre-school-aged homeless children are receiving the support services they need.

Schools are required to coordinate with the proper outside services to determine what support homeless students are in need of. For example, schools are required to coordinate with juvenile and family courts, public housing providers or domestic violence agencies if need be.

To ensure that homeless students stay in school despite living a transient lifestyle, the provisions require that schools remove enrollment barriers that hinder homeless children from entering new schools as well as provide transportation to students through the end of the school year, even if they become properly housed.

Accompanying the Department’s guidance is a fact sheet that provides basic information about homeless children living in the U.S.

The fact sheet defines homeless as:

  • "sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals"
  • having "a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place 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”

While many people traditionally associate homelessness with the last bullet point, the Department makes it clear that any child living in unstable circumstances should be identified to receive added support.

In addition to complying with the new provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act, the Department also asks that schools ensure homeless students are not being disproportionately disciplined due to their circumstances.

"Consider providing extra time or other accommodations for homeless students on homework and projects, or extra resources that may be needed, such as access to printers, computers, and school supplies. Review attendance policies to ensure that they do not disproportionately punish homeless students, who may face difficulty arriving on time to school,” the Department said.

The Department has been busy clarifying what is expected of schools under the new education legislation before it goes into effect. In June, the Department released a similar guidance focused on ensuring stability for foster youth in schools.

[Read: First ESSA Guidance Focuses on Promoting Educational Stability of Foster Youth

Read the fact sheet here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor



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