Nebraska's Tool Kit for Systems Involved in the Education of Students in Out-of-Home Care

Tool C-1: Frequently Asked Questions
Homeless Students

Part Six: Diverse Student Populations
Section C. Homeless Students

group of elementary age childrenThe following summarizes questions about homeless students often posed by the primary systems involved in the education of students in out-of-home care.  The responses are based on federal law, Nebraska statute, administrative rules, regulations and State agency memoranda.  However, in some cases, the response may be primarily dictated by the individual student’s situation and needs.  Familiarity and discussion with the school as to how its policies, procedures and protocols may relate to a particular child or youth under a specific set of circumstances is recommended as a matter of “best practice” and may greatly assist in advocating for that student and achievement of his or her academic and vocational goals.

For more information about Education and Homeless Students, refer to the Nebraska Department of Education - Federal Programs Office webpage:


McKinney Vento Act and Homeless Students

  1. What is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act?
    The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, re-authorized in January of 2002, as Title X, Part C of the No Child Left Behind Act, is the primary piece of federal legislation dealing with the education of children and youth in homeless situations.  The McKinney-Vento Act provides educational benefits to homeless students and ensures they enroll in school and have full and equal opportunity to succeed academically.  Under certain circumstances, children and youth awaiting foster care or out-of-home placement are considered "homeless" under the Act.

    The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is available via the United States Department of Education website:
  1. What is the definition of a "homeless" student?
    The term "homeless children and youth" means individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate night-time residence. This includes students who are:

    • Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason;
    • Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or campgrounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
    • Living in emergency or transitional shelters;
    • Abandoned in hospitals;
    • Awaiting foster care or out-of-home placement;
    • Have a primary night-time residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations for human beings; or
    • Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.
    Migratory children and youth qualify as homeless by the above conditions.


Education Programs and Services for Homeless Students

As defined by the McKinney-Vento Act, the term "school of origin" refers to the school the student attended when permanently housed, or the school where he or she was last enrolled. The term "enrollment" is defined as attending classes and participating fully in school activities.

  1. Are there education programs and related services available specifically for homeless students?
    Yes. At a minimum, education-related services for students in homeless situations include the following:

    • School of Origin: The school district must, to the extent feasible, keep students in homeless situations in their school of origin, unless it is against the parent or guardian's wishes.  Students can stay in their school of origin the entire time they are homeless, and until the end of any school year in which they move into permanent housing.
    • Immediate School Enrollment: The school district must immediately enroll students in homeless situations, with or without the required paperwork and enrollment documents.  Each state and school district must develop, review and revise their policies to remove barriers to the enrollment and retention of children and youth in homeless situations.
    • School Transportation: At the parent or guardian's request, a homeless student must be provided with transportation to and from the school of origin.  For an unaccompanied youth, transportation to and from the school of origin can be provided at the Homeless Education Liaison's request.
    • Homeless Education Liaison: Each school district must identify a person who will serve as the Homeless Education Liaison for that district.


Homeless Education Liaisons

  1. Who is a Homeless Education Liaison?
    Under the McKinney-Vento Act, each school district is required to designate a Homeless Education Liaison to work with and coordinate services for homeless students within that district.  The Homeless Education Liaison also collaborates and coordinates services with the State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth as well as the community and school staff responsible for the provision of education and related services to homeless students.

    The State Coordinator and the school district must inform school staff, service providers and advocates who work with families in homeless situations of the district's Homeless Education Liaison and his or her duties.

  1. What are the Homeless Education Liaison's duties and responsibilities?
    Each school district's Homeless Education Liaison ensures the following is provided for homeless students:

    • Children and youth in homeless situations are identified by school personnel and through coordination with other entities and agencies.
    • Students enroll in school and have full and equal opportunity to succeed academically.
    • Children, youth and families in homeless situations receive the educational services for which they are eligible, including Head Start, Even Start and pre-school programs administered by the school district.  Referrals are made to medical, dental, mental health and other service providers, as needed.
    • The parents or guardian is informed of educational opportunities available to their child and provided with meaningful opportunities to participate in his or her education.
    • Public notice of the education rights of homeless students is disseminated where children and youth receive services under the McKinney-Vento Act.
    • Enrollment disputes are mediated in accordance with the McKinney-Vento Act.
    • Parents, guardians and unaccompanied youth are fully informed of all transportation services, including to and from the school of origin, and are assisted in accessing these services.
    • Homeless students who do not have immunizations or immunization/medical records are assisted in obtaining the necessary immunizations and records.
    • When in the child's best interest and after considering his or her wishes, a homeless student is assisted in choosing and enrolling in a new school.  Homeless students must be provided with notice of the right to appeal an enrollment decision that is not their choice.
    • Homeless students are immediately enrolled in school pending resolution of disputes that might arise over school enrollment or educational placement.


School Transportation

Who is responsible for providing transportation to and from school for a homeless student?

The school district must provide transportation to and from the school of origin for a homeless student at the parent or guardian's request.  When the student is an unaccompanied youth, transportation to and from the school of origin can be provided at the request of the Homeless Education Liaison.

  • If the school of temporary residence and school of origin are in the same school district, that district must provide transportation.
  • If the student is residing in a school district outside the school of origin's district, the two districts must determine how to divide the responsibility and cost of providing transportation, or share equally.



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