Answer: Let’s start with the legal authority for youth signing themselves out: State plans must include a “demonstration that the State educational agency and local educational agencies in the State have developed, and shall review and revise, policies to remove barriers to the identification of homeless children and youths, and the enrollment and retention of homeless children and youths in schools in the State.” (42 USC sec. 11432(g)(1)(I))
Your district has to have a way for unaccompanied youth to participate fully in school. That includes signing in and out due to doctor’s appointments, etc. The Mckinney-Vento Act does not prescribe a required manner to remove the barrier. So for example, if the youth has a caregiver, the district could have the caregiver sign the student in/out. But there needs to be a process for youth who truly have no one. To address the barrier, your district can establish the process that unaccompanied youth sign themselves out. That is the most common process we see.
Having a form to share the names of your unaccompanied youth with appropriate school staff who have “a legitimate educational interest” in the information (FERPA language) makes sense. You are sharing the information for a particular, education-related purpose — specifically, so that the school can appropriately implement the youths’ McKinney-Vento rights. You might want to share that information for other reasons too. Like for example, now that ESSA requires that McKinney-Vento students are assisted by school counselors, you might want to inform counselors who the McKinney-Vento students in their school are, so they can be sure to connect with those students and offer assistance. Counselors can help with partial credits, too (another ESSA requirement). Just like you let transportation staff know about McKinney-Vento students so they can provide timely and appropriate transportation, letting the front office staff know so they can allow students to sign themselves in and out is acceptable under FERPA and a good practice under McKinney-Vento.
The only caution is to make sure those you are informing have some basic trauma-informed and sensitivity training, so they use the information carefully and appropriately, and don’t stigmatize or embarrass the students.