New Guidance on Serving Homeless Children

August 2016

On July 26, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (“USDOE”) released new guidance addressing the educational rights of homeless children and youths under the McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by the  Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”).  The ESSA revised several key provisions of the McKinney-Vento Act, which takes effect on October 1, 2016. 

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, states and districts must ensure that homeless students have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education provided to other students.  The USDOE noted that with the changes made by the ESSA:

  • There is greater emphasis on the identification of homeless children and youths, including requirements that states and districts provide training and professional development opportunities for staff so that they can identify and meet the needs of homeless children and to ensure that State coordinators and local liaisons are able to carry out their duties.
  • Increased the emphasis on access to preschool education for young homeless children by requiring local liaisons to ensure access to public preschool programs. Preschool-aged homeless children can be eligible under the McKinney-Vento Act.
  • Homeless students who meet the relevant eligibility criteria must not face barriers to accessing academic and extracurricular activities, including magnet school, summer school, career and technical education, advanced placement, online learning and charter school programs. 
  • There is a presumption that keeping homeless students enrolled in the school of origin is in the student’s best interest to promote school stability and greater educational outcomes, except when contrary to the request of the parent or guardian. The school of origin is defined as the school the homeless student attended when permanently housed or the school in which student was last enrolled, which now includes preschools and “receiving schools” (i.e., the school a student is to attend after completing the final grade level at the school of origin). A homeless student must be able to remain in his or her school of origin for the duration of homelessness or until the end of the school year in which he or she becomes permanently housed.
  • Homeless students are entitled to privacy of their student records, including information about the student's living situation (i.e., homeless). 
  • Dispute resolution procedures now address eligibility issues, in addition to school selection and enrollment.  If a parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth initiates a dispute with a district, the student must be immediately enrolled in the school in which placement is sought and, at the request of a parent, guardian, or, in the case of an unaccompanied youth, the local liaison, the student must be provided transportation to and from the school selected by the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth, for the duration of the dispute, including appeals.
  • There is new authority for local liaisons to affirm the eligibility of identified homeless students who meet the definition of “homeless” for programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The full text of the latest guidance from the USDOE concerning the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act, as amended by the ESSA, is available here.  (In addition, worthy of note is USDOE guidance also issued on July 26 concerning Section 504 and students with ADHD, which may be found here.)

Practice Pointers:

  1. Review district board policies and administrative regarding homeless students to ensure they reflect the changes taking effect on October 1, 2016.
  2. Review district practices and consider whether there are potential barriers for homeless students in enrollment deadlines; fines; records required for enrollment, such as immunization records; proof of residency; and academic records.
  3. Ensure the district local liaison understands the new changes and their role in coordinating services to ensure that homeless children enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed.

If you have any questions regarding the McKinney-Vento Act or the ESSA, please call one of our six offices.

F3 NewsFlash prepared by Anne M. Sherlock, Kimberly A. Smith and John W. Norlin.
Anne is a Partner in the F3 Sacramento office.
Kimberly is a Partner in the F3 Los Angeles office.
John is Special Counsel in the F3 San Diego office.

This F3 NewsFlash is a summary only and not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult with legal counsel to determine how this legal development may apply to your specific facts and circumstances.  Information on a free NewsFlash subscription can be found at

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