Answer: The school should work with the unaccompanied youth, but may also provide services or referrals to the parent. ESSA made this clear by amending the language around school placement and enrollment of unaccompanied youth. The new language is “give priority to” the views of unaccompanied youth, where it used to say “consider”:

“(iv) in the case of an unaccompanied youth, ensure that the local educational agency liaison designated under paragraph (1)(J)(ii) assists in placement or enrollment decisions under this subparagraph, gives priority to the views of such unaccompanied youth, and provides notice to such youth of the right to appeal under subparagraph (E).”  42 USC 11432(g)(3)(A)(iv)

Also, throughout the law, including in the dispute language, the law uses the phrase “the parent or guardian of the child or youth or (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth”.

It’s clearly “or”: the parent or guardian OR the unaccompanied youth.  It doesn’t say AND.  So I think only the youth has the right to access the dispute process.  I realize that leaves schools at the mercy of angry parents. Finessing that relationship, referring families for counseling and family reunification services in the community, etc. are really critical.

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