Answer: Yes, both the school and the student have rights in this situation. First, the runaway report. Schools don’t make runaway reports. Parents make runaway reports to law enforcement. So the stepfather can make a report, and should not ask the school to do that. If a runaway report is made to law enforcement, and the school is aware of the report, the school has to contact law enforcement or child protective services or the parent. The point of the contact is to let someone know where the youth is. In this case, the stepdad knows where the youth is. The stepdad can go to law enforcement and tell them where the youth is. The school does not need to be involved, and in fact should not be involved. This is a family matter that the stepdad needs to deal with, not the school.

In addition, the McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to remove barriers to identification, enrollment, and retention in school. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(1)(I). Calling the police in this situation would present a tremendous barrier to identification, enrollment, and retention and would violate the McKinney-Vento Act. The school also is not required to complete any paperwork related to child support. In fact, I would suggest your district speak with an attorney before completing any such paperwork. I suspect the paperwork requires the school to verify information about the support the stepdad provides to the youth. Since you have identified the student as an unaccompanied youth, it would not be appropriate for you to provide the court with information stating the stepdad is supporting the student. Assuming the student is 16 years old or older, the student can get social security benefits transferred to his own name. He will need to do that at a social security office. If you (or someone else appropriate from school) could accompany him, or at least give him a letter on your letterhead describing his situation, that would be very helpful. He can get an appointment at the Social Security office by calling 800-772-1213.

Hopefully, at least the youth will able to switch payment of the Social Security benefits. The youth also can switch Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, if stepdad is getting any of those.

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