FAQs

Are school districts responsible for identifying homeless youth?

Yes. The School District of Philadelphia works with our office to have a liaison or assigned lead to ensure the McKinney-Vento Act law is upheld for students experiencing homelessness.  This person helps school staff identify these youth and direct them toward needed resources and support through connection to other services and agencies.

If a child’s temporary residence is located in a different county or state from the school of origin, which school district is responsible for the child’s education?

The law does not assign financial responsibility.  The School District of Philadelphia will work with the other district to ensure education stability for the child.

If a student finds temporary housing across state lines, does the McKinney-Vento Act still apply?

Yes.  The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law and applies as in any situation.  The student has the right to stay in their school of origin unless the parent/guardian wishes other wise or it is not possible given the specific circumstances.  Examples: Victims or persons evacuated from disasters.  The School District of Philadelphia will work with the other district to ensure education stability for the child.

Does providing/arranging for transportation mean “door-to-door” service in similar manner as special education students?

Generally, no.  For students who fit the qualifying distance (at least 1.0 mile), transportation assistance comes in the form of SEPTA student passes.  However, for distinct special circumstances, if there is a yellow bus on the route of the temporary address, an exception can be made.  If the student is in special education and their IEP states “door-to-door,” then service must be arranged.

How “immediate” is immediate enrollment?

The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to enroll students experiencing homelessness immediately (standard dictionary definition: “without delay”), even if the student is unable to produce documents normally required for enrollment.  “Enroll” means permitting the student to attend classes and fully participate in school activities.  Generally this would be same day or the following day.

How can schools verify age for Kindergarten enrollment without a birth certificate?

By law, enrollment remains immediate.  The school should work with the family to obtain acceptable proof of age, which can be found in other documents such as medical records, baptismal certificate, or a parent/guardian signed statement.

If a student is enrolled without requiring immunization proof, isn’t the entire school at risk?

McKinney-Vento requires immediate enrollment.  As the majority of youth experiencing homelessness have been vaccinated and it is often difficult for families experiencing homelessness to obtain and keep copies of records, the school should work with the family to do so.  If more help is needed, the school should contact the previous school (if applicable) or the Department of Health in the state of original residence. Un-immunized children should receive initial doses as soon as possible, unless there are philosophical, religious, or medical exemptions.

How can a school determine what classes or services to provide for a student if there are no school records?

Following immediate enrollment, the receiving school must contact the previous school for records.  If records cannot be transmitted immediately, class schedule information can be obtained from the parent/guardian or youth.  The school can also input procedures for a quick assessment to determine class placement and any recommended supportive services.

Must schools immediately enroll unaccompanied youth, even without proof of guardianship?

Yes.  Lack of guardianship papers cannot delay or prevent school enrollment for unaccompanied youth.  The School District of Philadelphia allows youth to enroll themselves with assistance from our office.

If the School District of Philadelphia does not follow the law, is there a penalty?

Absolutely.  States are required to ensure that their school districts comply with the McKinney-Vento Act.  Therefore, the state can sanction noncompliance by withholding federal funds or other means from the offending school district.

What duty does the receiving school have to a student who has not been in school and enrolls mid-semester to give them credit for the work they do in the rest of the semester?

The law requires the School District of Philadelphia to remove barriers to retention in school.   Since inability to earn credits is an obstacle to remaining in school, the school must address that problem.   Any necessary adjustments to the student’s schedule must be made to permit the student to obtain partial or prorated credit for their work.

Does McKinney-Vento address preschool and what must states do to serve these children?

Yes.  The law specifically includes preschool programs in its definition of a free, appreciate public education. State plans must describe procedure to ensure preschoolers experiencing homelessness have access to state-directed preschool programs.

How do school districts serve preschoolers experiencing homelessness?

Liaisons must ensure that families and children can enroll in Head Start and Even Start programs and in preschool program directed by the school district.  In the School District of Philadelphia, our office works with the Office of Early Childhood to identify these children. Oftentimes, we are able to assist with certain donated items, such as coats and shoes.

Do private schools have McKinney-Vento obligations, especial as the school of origin for a homeless youth?

For schools entirely privately funded, McKinney-Vento does not apply so these schools are not required to allow students to continue to attend or provide transportation.

What duties do charter schools have to homeless students and must the appoint a homeless liaison?

Yes and yes. Public charter schools have the same responsibilities under McKinney-Vento as other public schools and school districts. If a student experiencing homelessness attempts to enroll in a charter school, the school must enroll them as long as other students living in the same area would be eligible to attend the school, unless there is overcrowding or a specialized selection process. If the school has specific skills-related entrance requirements, for example, artistic ability requirements for a fine arts school, the student must meet them. Charter schools considered their own LEA (local education agency) should appoint a liaison to work with students experiencing homelessness.