The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1986 is a federal law that provides money for homeless shelter programs. Homeless children also are entitled to the protections of the McKinney-Vento Act.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.” The act provides examples of children who would fall under this definition:
Children sharing housing due to economic hardship or loss of housing
Children living in “motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds due to lack of alternative accommodations”
Children living in “emergency or transitional shelters”
Children whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g., park benches, etc.)
Children living in “cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations”
The McKinney-Vento Act ensures homeless children transportation to and from school free of charge, allowing children to attend their school of origin (last school enrolled or the school they attended when they first become homeless) regardless of what district the family resides in. It requires schools to register homeless children even if they lack normally required documents, such as immunization records or proof of residence.
Homeless families’ rights
You have the right to register your child for school even if you do not have your full documentation such as immunization records, utility bill, birth certificate, etc.
Once registered, your child can begin attending school within one or two days.
Your child has the right to stay in the same school even if you move, if it is feasible and in the best interests of him or her.
Your child will be provided with school transportation with school buses, city bus passes or gas vouchers.
Your children are entitled to free lunch and breakfast at school without the need to fill out the form.
Your child must not be isolated or stigmatized.
The above services will continue until the end of the school year in which homelessness ends for your family.
Dispute resolution process
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act acknowledges that disputes may arise between the school district and homeless students and their parents, or unaccompanied youth, when the district seeks to place a student in a school other than the school of origin or the school requested by the parent or unaccompanied youth. The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has developed a dispute resolution process as required by the McKinney-Vento Act. Disputes related to school selection or enrollment should be initiated at the request of the parent or unaccompanied youth and not at the request of the school district.