Answer: No, transportation cannot be contingent on a family going to the homeless office. If the student has been missing excessive amounts of school, the school is within its rights to re-evaluate whether it is in the student’s best interest to remain in the school of origin (while recognizing the presumption in favor of keeping the student in the school of origin and the priority given to the parent’s or unaccompanied youth’s wishes). 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(31)( BJ)(iii). The school must involve the family in that discussion. However, the school cannot require the family to meet in person at the homeless office, since homeless families commonly do not have transportation and may have work or other basic needs issues that prevent them from attending a meeting. The school may be able to help the parents attend by providing transportation and offering the meeting at a convenient time. The school also may offer the parents another means to attend, such as by phone. Ultimately, if the school is totally unable to reach the parent to discuss best interest, the school can make its best interest determination without the parent’s involvement. But then the school would be required to provide the parent with written notice of its decision and ensure the parent can access the dispute process. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(3)(B)(iii) and § 11432(g)(3)(E)(ii).
Also, if the parent or student appeals, the student must remain enrolled in the school of origin, and the school must continue to provide transportation, as the dispute process unfolds. 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(3)(E)(i).