Newsletter (February 14, 2024)

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Full Participation in Extracurricular Activities for Students Experiencing Homelessness

Participating in extracurricular school activities has been shown to increase student engagement, high school graduation, and later success in life – particularly for disadvantaged students. Yet homelessness creates significant barriers to participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities. Fortunately, federal law – the McKinney-Vento Act – includes strong policies to remove barriers to participation in extracurricular activities.

This resource explains the McKinney-Vento Act requirements and provides examples of state policies to help implement them.

The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Several studies have shown that participating in extracurricular activities has profound benefits for all students, enhancing academic performance, attendance, and overall behavior.

For students experiencing homelessness, these benefits are AMPLIFIED. In fact, research even indicates that participation in high school activities is often a predictor of later success – in college, a career and later life outcomes. 

These activities nurture their self-esteem, impart vital life skills, and serve as a pathway to higher education and scholarships. And for students who lose their housing, extracurricular activities offer an oasis of stability, predictability and normalcy in the midst of the chaos of homelessness.

Homelessness Creates Significant Barriers

As homelessness forces students to move from one temporary living situation to another, the student may be unable to meet the state high school athletic/activity association’s residency or attendance requirements to participate in activities. For example:

  • The McKinney-Vento Act allows a student who is homeless to remain in the same school, even if homelessness forces them into temporary housing outside district lines. However, as the student is no longer technically a district resident, the state high school athletic/activity association’s residency requirements may ban their participation.
  • Alternatively, a student who loses their housing may be forced to move into a shelter or other temporary housing far from their school, requiring them to enroll in a new school in the middle of a sport’s season. Students who enroll mid-year often are ineligible to participate immediately in sports or other activities under the state high school athletic/activity association’s policies.

Participation requirements that work well to limit unfair competition in ordinary circumstances do not address the reality of homelessness and add to homeless students’ list of losses: home, school, and cherished athletic or other activity. Ultimately, these requirements may cause youth to lose opportunities for higher education or even to drop out of school.

The McKinney-Vento Act Requires States and Local Educational Agencies to Eliminate These Barriers

  • The McKinney-Vento Act applies to athletic associations as “state actors.” Therefore, state educational agencies, local educational agencies, and athletic associations must comply with the McKinney-Vento Act.
  • The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to enroll homeless students immediately, and “enroll” is specifically defined as “attending classes and participating fully in school activities.”Therefore, McKinney-Vento students must be allowed to participate in sports, extra-curricular activities, and other school activities immediately.
  • The McKinney-Vento Act requires state and local educational agencies to “remove barriers to the enrollment and retention of homeless children and youths in schools.” Therefore, barriers to participation in sports, extracurricular activities, and all classes and school activities must be removed.

📝 State Policies on Extracurricular Activities 📝

Several states have incorporated the McKinney-Vento Act’s requirements into their written state school athletics association’s procedures. For example:

Arkansas:

The state of Arkansas passed the Right to Play Act in 2023, which states “… A student who is considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento 10 Homeless Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11431 et seq., as it existed on January 1, 2023, shall be immediately eligible to participate in interscholastic activities at the school in which he or she is enrolled.”

Other states have taken similar action through administrative processes. Here are a few examples:

Virginia:

The Virginia High School League’s rule – Students who qualify under the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Act are eligible provided the school has on file all required documentation substantiating the student’s status and provided the student is eligible in all other respects. (Rule 28A-7-2(15)).

Delaware:

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association’s rule – A student who is homeless as defined in the McKinney-Vento Act, 42 U.S.C. 11434a(2) shall be eligible to participate at the public school in which the student is enrolled. Rule 2.2.1.8. The period of ineligibility shall not apply if the transfer is the result of the student being homeless as defined in the McKinney-Vento Act, 42 U.S.C. 11434a(2). Rule 2.4.4.1.1

  • Delaware’s rules also specify that the McKinney-Vento Act exception does not apply if the student or family moved for the primary reason of seeking a superior team, dissatisfaction with the previous team, following a coach, or avoiding disciplinary action.

📄 Access ARP-HCY Sample Forms and MOUs

This page contains examples of forms, agreements, and other resources that support the use of ARP-HCY funds for students experiencing homelessness. SchoolHouse Connection is very grateful to the school districts and agencies who have agreed to share these adaptable, “plug and play” resources with their peers. being listed on this page does not imply endorsement of a particular vendor. If you have a sample form, agreement, or other resource you’d be willing to share, please email us

Examples include:

  • Sample forms for Store and Gas Cards
  • Sample MOUs/Agreements for Motels
  • Sample MOUs/Agreements with Community Based Organizations

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