Answer: You absolutely did the right thing for the 14-year old youth. The McKinney-Vento Act requires immediate enrollment in school for all homeless youth, 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.

Full Question:

We have a 14-year old boy whose suspension ended and needed to re-enroll back in school. He and his mother other have many issues in the home, so he ran away to live with his friend’s family. His friend’s mother called me and asked if she could enroll the boy back into school because the boy’s mother is not being cooperative.

After many phone calls with the school and working with enrollment personnel, we end up talking with this boy’s mother. She is very upset that her son is living with his friend’s family and that his friend’s mother would be allowed to enroll him into school. She explained to me the many issues she and her son are having in the home.  She recently got a new job. If she took any time away she would lose the job.

I gave his friend’s mother a caregiver form to enroll the student back into school. This has brought up many questions with the principal and administrators about letting strangers enroll kids in school, etc. I have explained the McKinney-Vento Act, as I always do, but there is still some pushback.  This is an unusual situation for me where a guardian is in the same town and very upset that someone else is enrolling the child into school, but is also unwilling to be involved at the same time.

I guess my question is first, did I handle the situation correctly by giving a caregiver form and helping the student get enrolled back into school?  Would you all have any suggestions for situations like this?

Full Answer: 

You absolutely did the right thing for this 14-year old student.  The McKinney-Vento Act requires immediate enrollment in school for all homeless youth, 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 can remind the principals and administrators that you are following federal law, and that this specific issue (unhappy parent of unaccompanied youth) has been dealt with by 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.  But you need to be clear with her (and your administrators) that the school’s legal obligation is to educate in compliance with the McKinney-Vento 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).

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