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at Advocates for Children

151 West 30th Street
5th Floor
New York, NY 10001

TEL 800.388.2014
FAX 212.807.6872

PLEASE NOTE: In some cases, certain information on this page may not be current.

Important changes related to McKinney-Vento were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). The changes went into effect October 1, 2016, and include: expanded transportation protections until the end of the school year for temporarily housed students who move into permanent housing, the inclusion of preschool in the definition of "school of origin" (children can stay in their school of origin and receive transportation to that school), and changes to the dispute resolution process which include the provision of all McKinney-Vento related services (for example, continued enrollment and transportation) until a final decision is issued. For more information about ESSA changes to the McKinney-Vento Act, see the State Education Department's Field Memo regarding Implementation of Changes to McKinney-Vento Homeless Act as a Result of Passage of Every Student Succeeds Act.

Please continue to check here for updated information about how new laws will impact policies and procedures in New York State, and as always, feel free to contact NYS-TEACHS at 800-388-2014 with any questions you may have.

FAQs: Enrollment and Attendance

The McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to immediately enroll students experiencing homelessness, even if the student is unable to provide documents typically required for enrollment, such as school records, medical records including immunization records, proof of residency, guardianship papers, birth certificate, or other documents normally needed; or has missed application or enrollment deadlines during any period of homelessness. 42 U.S.C. § 11432 (g)(3)(c)(i).

Who is responsible for getting the documents normally needed for enrollment for students who are homeless?

The enrolling school has the responsibility to request the student's records from the student's former school. Within five days of receiving a records request from the new school, the district in which the student was last enrolled must forward all records to the new school. Students have the right to attend classes while the new school waits for the student's records. 42 U.S.C. § 11432 (g)(3)(C)(ii); N.Y. Educ. Law § 3209(2)(e); 8 N.Y.C.R.R. § 100.2(x)(4)(ii).

Can a school require that a student who is homeless provide proof of residence before enrolling the student?

No. Students who are homeless are entitled to immediate enrollment and are not required to submit the documents normally needed for enrollment. Often times, students experiencing homelessness have no official documentation of where they are currently living. However, if the school does not believe the student is homeless, the school district may conduct an investigation after immediately enrolling the student in school. See section on dispute resolution.

Can a previous public school refuse to send records due to fines owed by a student?

No. The McKinney-Vento Act requires that school districts "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, including barriers to enrollment and retention due to outstanding fees or fines, or absences". 42 U.S.C. § 1432 (g)(1)(I).

Can a previous school transfer records to the new school without a parent's signature?

Yes. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of educational records and generally requires schools to have written permission from a parent before releasing any information from a child's records; however, FERPA [PDF] allows schools to release records to schools to which a student is transferring without permission from the parent. However, please note that schools must treat information about a homeless child's or youth's living situation as a student education record, subject to all the protections of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. 20 U.S.C. § 1232(g); 42 U.S.C. § 11432(g)(3)(G).

Are students in temporary housing allowed to enroll in after-school programs?

Yes. Districts must make sure that students in temporary housing have the same access to programs and services available to permanently housed students. This includes both before- and after-school programs, as well as; educational programs for children with disabilities, educational programs for English learners, programs in career and technical education, programs for gifted and talented students, and school nutrition programs. 42 U.S.C. § 1432 (g)(4).

Can a district refuse to enroll undocumented immigrants, i.e. immigrants who are in this country without legal permission and who are temporarily housed?

All undocumented students have the same right to attend public schools as U.S. citizens. If an undocumented student is designated as homeless, the student has the same rights and protections under the McKinney-Vento Act as would a U.S. citizen. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). For more information, please see Immigrant Students.

Can a student who has been attending private school, becomes homeless, and is temporarily living in another school district enroll in the public school in the district of origin?

Yes. Under New York state law, a student who is homeless has the right to attend school in the district where she was attending a public school on a tuition-free basis or was entitled to attend when circumstances arose which caused the student to become homeless. N.Y. Educ. Law § 3209(1)(c).

Does a student who has identified himself as homeless have the right to enroll in school, even if the school does not believe the student is temporarily housed?

Yes. If a student identifies as temporarily housed, the school district must immediately enroll the student. If there are doubts, the district liaison may later begin an investigation into the student's living situation to determine whether or not the student has the right to enroll in the particular school. 42 U.S.C. § 1432 (3)(E)(i). For more information about this process, please see Dispute Resolution & Appeal Process FAQs.

Can a student be held accountable for absences caused by homelessness?

No. Absences caused by homelessness cannot be counted against students. For example, if a family is evicted from their home and is waiting for transportation assistance after moving from one household to another, or if students are required to be present at the time a family applies for shelter, the student may miss school. 42 U.S.C. Sections 1432 (g)(1)(I) & 1432 (g)(7).

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6/22/17: Changes Regarding the Education of Homeless Children and Youth - Updates to Education Law § 3209 and Commissioner’s Regulations

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