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Homeless students (October 2012 School Leader Update)


In the wake of tough economic times, schools are seeing a rise of homeless youth, and many schools have raised the question of who is considered to be a “homeless youth.” The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistant Act of 2001 (reauthorized in January 2002) – Title X, Part C of the No Child Left Behind Act – Sec. 725 is the primary piece of federal legislation dealing with the education of homeless children and youth.

The definition of the term “homeless children and youth” is as follows:

A.  Means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
B.  Includes the following:
i.  Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to a lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or awaiting foster care placement;
Ii.  Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is public or private not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
Iii. Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
Iv.  Migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purpose of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clause (i) through (iii).

In Iowa, the rules regarding Education for Homeless children are located in 281--Iowa Administrative Code 33.  These rules add further guidance to school districts regarding education of homeless children and youth and cover the following:

  • A homeless child or youth of ages 3-21;
  • A child who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence and includes the following:
    • a child who is sharing the housing of others (includes doubled-up families) due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason;
    • a child living in a hotel, motel, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations;
    • a child living in an emergency or transitional shelter;
    • a child that is abandoned in a hospital;
    • a child that is awaiting foster care placement;
    • a child who has a primary night-time residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
    • a child who is living in a car, park, abandoned building, substandard housing, bus or train station, or similar setting;
    • a migratory child/youth who qualifies as homeless because of the living circumstances described above; or
    • youth who have run away or youth being forced to leave home.

Educational Rights of Homeless Youth
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, children in homeless situations have the right to:

  • Go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there;
  • Attend either the local school or the school of origin, if this is in their best interest; the school of origin is the school the child attended when he/she was permanently housed, or the school in which the child was last enrolled;
  • Receive transportation to and from the school of origin;
  • Enroll in school immediately, even if missing records and documents normally required for enrollment such as a birth certificate, proof of residence, previous school records, or immunization/medical records;
  • Enroll, attend classes, and participate fully in all school activities while the school arranges for transfer of records;
  • Have access to the same programs and services that are available to all other students including transportation and supplemental educational services;
  • Have access to free school meals/lunch programs;
  • Attend school with children not experiencing homelessness; segregation based on a student’s status as homeless is prohibited.

Local Homeless Liaison
Every Iowa public school district is required to have a liaison for homeless students. 

A toolkit for the liaison as well as more detailed information about the McKinney-Vento Act and 281--Iowa Administrative Code 33 is available on the Homeless Education webpage.


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on August 31, 2016 at 8:13pm.