Students are eligible for homeless services if they lack a fixed, regular and nighttime residence. According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the term “homeless children and youth” means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and includes:
(i) children and youth who share the housing of other persons because of loss of housing, economic difficulties, or other similar reasons; those living in motels, hostels, trailer parks, or camping grounds because they lack alternative adequate accommodations; those living in temporary housing such as emergency or transitional shelters; being abandoned in hospitals; are waiting to be placed in foster care;
(ii) children and youth whose primary nighttime residence is a public or private place not designed for or generally used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings [within the meaning of section 103(a)(2)(C)];
(iii) children and youth who are living in automobiles, public spaces such as parks, bus or train stations, or other type of public areas, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, or similar settings; and
(iv) migratory children (as defined in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) who qualify as homeless because the children are living in circumstances described in above conditions (i) through (iii).
Homelessness can be distressing for children and youth, as they can experience multiple moves in a given year, staying in shelters, doubling up in overcrowded apartments with relatives or family friends, or sleeping in motels, cars and campgrounds. Providing a stable and nurturing environment during a child’s early years is important to connect early learning to lifelong growth and development.
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every school district must appoint a local homeless education liaison to serve as the key homeless education contact in the district. The local liaison leads and oversees the implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act within the district, ensuring that eligible children are identified and provided with the rights and services to which they are entitled.
Warwick School District Homeless Liaison is Susan Shinn-Thomas, Home & School Visitor. You can contact Mrs. Shinn-Thomas by calling 717-626-3734.
Dispute Resolution Process
Pursuant to the McKinney-Vento Act, every state must develop procedures for the prompt resolution of disputes regarding the educational placement of homeless children and youths. 42 U.S.C §11432(g)(1)(C). The state must ensure that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) comply with requirements set forth in the McKinney-Vento Act including ensuring immediate enrollment, providing written notice to families concerning school selection, enrollment decisions and providing enrollment and pendency in the school of choice while a dispute is being resolved. 42 U.S.C §11432(g)(2)(A).
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has developed the following procedures to govern the resolution of disputes regarding enrollment, school selection, homeless status and complaints of non-compliance with legal requirements pertaining to the education for homeless children and youths:
Level 1 – A dispute may be raised with a LEA.
If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment, the child or youth involved must immediately be admitted to the school in which they are seeking enrollment, pending resolution of the dispute 42 U.S.C.§11432(g)(3)(E)(i). PDE recommends that the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth who initiates the dispute contact the LEA liaison for individuals experiencing homelessness as soon as possible after receiving notice of the dispute. If the person initiating the dispute does not contact the LEA liaison directly, the LEA shall be responsible for contacting the LEA liaison regarding the dispute as soon as possible and referring the family or youth involved to the liaison.
The LEA liaison shall ensure that the child or youth is immediately enrolled, explain the dispute resolution process to families and help them to use it 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(E)(iii). The LEA shall issue a written disposition of the dispute within 20 business days after the LEA liaison is notified of the dispute. The disposition shall be provided to the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth and shall explain the basis for the decision and advise the parent, guardian or youth of the right to appeal. 42 U.S.C.§11432(g)(3)(E)(i).
NOTE: The LEA should use and maintain copies of PDE’s “Notice of Procedural Safeguards” form (see attached) which ensures that all LEAs (a) inform families of the basis of their decision regarding enrollment or school selection; (b) notifies families of their right to remain in their school of choice pending resolution of the dispute and (c) explains the procedures for challenging the decision of the LEA.
Level 2 – A complaint may be filed with a McKinney-Vento coordinator.
If the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth is dissatisfied with the LEA’s disposition of a dispute or would like to raise any issue of McKinney-Vento Act noncompliance, they may file a complaint or appeal with a McKinney-Vento site or regional coordinator or with the state coordinator. (See attached list which contains contact information for all of the McKinney-Vento coordinators in Pennsylvania). In lieu of filing an appeal with a McKinney-Vento coordinator, a parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth may elect to appeal the LEA decision directly to a court of competent jurisdiction. Participation in the appeal procedure is not required prior to taking legal action.
A regional or site coordinator with whom a complaint or appeal is filed must notify the state coordinator immediately. Upon being notified, the state coordinator will review the complaint or appeal and assign it to a site or regional coordinator for disposition. The coordinator to whom the appeal is assigned may contact, interview and accept documentation from any individual or LEA involved, and shall issue a written disposition within 20 business days after the complaint or appeal has been assigned. The disposition shall be provided to the LEA and the parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth involved. The child or youth shall continue to be enrolled in the school in which he or she is seeking enrollment until the complaint or appeal is resolved or until a disposition from a McKinney-Vento coordinator is received.
If a decision cannot be reached or agreed upon as the regional coordinator level, the dispute will be forwarded to the state coordinator for resolution. The state coordinator will view all information and interview all concerned parties involved. The Office of Chief Counsel will be included in the resolution process as needed. If mediation services are needed, the state coordinator will assist in the mediation and may also invite those involved to have the dispute mediated at any time in the process through the Dispute Resolution Program operated by the Commonwealth Office of General Counsel (OGC). The OGC Dispute Resolution Program is a voluntary informal process through which a trained mediator assists in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution.
Participating in mediation is not a waiver of the right to file a lawsuit nor is participation in mediation required prior to taking legal action.
NOTE: The parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth may file a complaint with the McKinney-Vento site, regional or state coordinator on the attached complaint form. However, the use of the attached form is not mandatory. Any dispute raised by a homeless family or youth concerning school enrollment or any other right under the McKinney-Vento Act whether received via telephone, letter or any mode of communication shall be treated as a complaint.
Click here for the Dispute Letter (form)