Answer: Yes, you did the right thing. McKinney-Vento requires immediate enrollment in school for all youth experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied homeless youth. The law also directs schools to review and revise policies that act as barriers to enrollment, specifically those barriers related to guardianship. You are following federal law, and that this specific issue has occurred in other states, with the rights of the youth upheld. Our job is to ensure that youth are in school, so that education is not disrupted during family struggles.
The mother still retains her parental rights, and she can access educational records and otherwise be involved with the student’s education. But as for other issues within the family, it is great to refer her to community services or other resources that can help the family with those issues. However, you are correct that the school’s legal obligation is to educate in compliance with the MV Act, and that is what you are doing.
Here are some legal citations to help:
• The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to enroll students experiencing homelessness immediately, even if the student is unable to provide documents that are typically required for enrollment, such as previous academic records, records of immunization and other required health records, proof of residency, or other documentation. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(C).
• Enroll means permitting the student to attend classes and participate fully in school activities. 42 U.S.C. §11434A(1).
• Lack of a legal guardian or guardianship documents cannot delay or prevent the enrollment of an unaccompanied youth. 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(3)(C), (g)(1)(H)(iv).
• The McKinney-Vento Act requires states and LEAs to eliminate barriers to identification, enrollment and retention and to enroll unaccompanied youth in school immediately. 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(1)(I), (g)(7).