Answer: We have published Guidelines for Designating LEA-Level and Building-Level McKinney-Vento Liaisons that may be helpful. The district level liaison is the ultimate authority on LEA determinations of homelessness and other decisions (disputable by the parent/youth). Building-level contacts can be instrumental in identification and ensuring full implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act and supports to students. However, the identification problems and undue hardships indicate that those LEAs need to provide better training to their building liaisons, so their determinations are correct. There may need to be a clearer protocol of how determinations are made, and a clear understanding that gray areas will be reviewed with the liaison prior to sharing the determination with the family or youth—but without delaying enrollment or services. If the current process and lack of training are creating barriers to enrollment and retention of students, that is a violation of the McKinney-Vento Act. It’s also important to note that ESSA now specifically requires liaisons to ensure that “school personnel providing services under this subtitle receive professional development and other support.” 42 USC §11432(g)(6)(A)(ix). So if the building liaisons are not adequately trained to make eligibility determinations, the liaison needs to train them better.
It’s also important for parents and students to know who the district liaison is and how to reach him or her, since the liaison is ultimately responsible for LEA implementation. ESSA requires: “State coordinators… and local educational agencies shall inform school personnel, service providers, advocates working with homeless families, parents and guardians of homeless children and youths, and homeless children and youths of the duties of the local educational agency liaisons, and publish an annually updated list of the liaisons on the State educational agency’s website.” 42 USC §11432(g)(6)(B).