Education Rights of Homeless Children and Youth
The federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (“McKinney-Vento”) guarantees homeless children and youth access to free, appropriate public education and the right to educational continuity and stability. With a global pandemic that has put many students at risk of housing instability and displacement, lawyers can play an important role in addressing their legal needs through McKinney-Vento. States and school districts are required under this federal law to review and revise laws, policies, regulations, and practices that may act as a barrier to the education of homeless children and youth. This course provides an overview of the educational rights of homeless children and youth and how lawyers can help them navigate and enforce these legal rights and ensure compliance of the law. Participants will learn the legal considerations when working with the educational rights of homeless students.
Michael Santos: Hello. My name is Michael Santos. I'm a senior policy associate at Results Educational Fund where I work with passionate grassroots advocates who use their voices to influence political decisions on critical federal housing policies that will bring an end to poverty. I'm here with you today to talk about the education rights of homeless children and youth. We have a lot to cover in the next hour of our session, but primarily I'm going to touch on five things. First, I want to talk to you about background information on homeless students. Second, I want to provide you with an overview of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act also known as McKinney-Vento. In particular, I want to cover the education for homeless children and youth program under this federal law. Third, I'm going to go over the educational rights under McKinney-Vento. Fourth, I'm going to talk to you about the implementation and enforcement of this federal law.
And finally, I want to talk to you about ongoing challenges and possible solutions to student homelessness. All of this to say that our goal for this session is to give you an insight on a different educational barriers homeless children and youth face. I also want you to understand the legal responsibilities of state and local educational agencies with respect to removing barriers to the education of homeless students. You'll learn about the educational rights of homeless children and youth and some key recommendations best practices on how to enforce them to ensure compliance under federal law. And finally, I hope that you gain insight on different ways to advocate for protecting the rights and meeting the educational needs of homeless children and youth.
Let's start with some background information. I want to provide you with a profile and data on student homelessness. In the school year 2018-2019, approximately 1,377,810 students were enrolled in public schools, but experienced homelessness. Now, this number has some limits to it. First, it excludes college students because this number only includes those students enrolled from K through 12 and only includes those who are identified or self-identify as someone experiencing homelessness. This number is also limited and is an under count because it excludes other members of household experiencing homelessness. So these are just the number of students who were identified or self-identified as experiencing homelessness, but it does not include the number of household members and other family members within the same household, but also experiencing homelessness.
The other thing to remember about this number is that there's not that more recent data available due to COVID-19 related delays. You can find out more information about prior years and a number of students experiencing homelessness in public schools through the US Department of Education. In particular, they have a database known as the ED Data Express where you can search by year and other filters that you can use to find out specific data on your state or aggregate data on the national level about the number of students experiencing homelessness.
The next thing I want to talk to you about is who is experiencing homelessness. And in essence, the question we should be asking is, who is covered by this federal law known as McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act? Under federal law, any child or youth who is experiencing homelessness is protected. This includes, but is not limited to an unaccompanied youth, basically a youth who is experiencing homelessness and who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. Homeless children also include children or youth who identify as LGBT. McKinney-Vento covers LGBTQ youth. Homeless children and youth identifying as LGBTQ face additional educational barriers not only because they're experiencing homelessness, but also because of their LGBTQ identity.
It is important to note that they are an overrepresented in a vulnerable homeless subpopulation, particularly within the group of unaccompanied homeless youth. McKinney-Vento and homelessness also includes immigrant children, English language learners, and limited English proficient students. As some of you may already know, McKinney-Vento applies equally to immigrant children and youth who are determined to be homeless under the federal law regardless of their immigration status. There are other populations that experience homelessness and that includes children of domestic violence survivors. Domestic violence is a leading cause of family homelessness and children and youth who are displaced by natural disasters. It's also important to note that there is a huge overlap between the homeless system of care and the foster care system. And so children exiting or aging out of foster care are more likely to experience homelessness than their peers.
One key takeaway is that homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color particularly African Americans. So before we go even further, I want to make sure we're all on the same page. And I'll be talking about some additional background information on today's topic. Homelessness is an ongoing crisis. It displaces millions of Americans each year. Contrary to popular belief, homelessness is experienced not just by those unsheltered individuals living on the streets, but also those individuals living with extended family and friends and those living in hotels and motels among other living arrangements. You're probably wondering why is this happening.
Well, for one, there's been a chronic underinvestment in housing programs on the federal, state, and local levels. The recession has not been over. There are many pockets throughout the country where living standards have not improved. Poverty rates have not changed significantly. Wages remain stagnant. There's a lack of entry level jobs and there's a shortage of affordable housing and homelessness can be precipitated by any number of events. And that holds true, particularly when COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States pretty hard.
Homelessness is a traumatic event and can lead to negative life outcomes. As I said before, it's an ongoing crisis even before the pandemic. It also disrupts schooling due to high mobility. It results in frequent transfers uprooting social connections and bonds formed with other students and peers. Also, it results in poor attendance and poor academic outcomes.
Staying in school offers homeless children and youth educational, continuity, stability, and a path toward academic and lifetime achievement. Irreparable harm results when students education gets interrupted. Homeless children who frequently transfer school are more likely to have poor attendance and poor academic outcomes than other homeless students who remain in stable school placements and those who are in permanent housing and they are more likely to repeat a grade. Providing homeless students much needed services and support is of critical importance at a time when they are experiencing great instability in their lives.
Now that we've covered some basic background information on student homelessness, I want to turn your attention to the overview of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in particular, the education for homeless children and youth program under this federal law. McKinney-Vento has been around since the 80s. It actually passed in 1987 and was reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Then it was amended and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act also known as ESSA in 2015.
It's important to know that McKinney-Vento program works hand in hand with other federal state local education programs. And it's also important to remember that not all school districts necessarily get program funding, but may still be under hook for their requirements under this federal law. Now, if you're trying to find out more information about this law in particular, the statue, you can look it up at 42 USC 11431. The United States Department of Education also has important guidance information on the McKinney-Vento program.
As I had already said, McKinney-Vento works hand in hand with other education related laws and these include FERPA, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Head Start and Early Care and Education Services for young children experiencing homelessness. There's also the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act commonly known as the IDEA. This is an important federal law that deals with intersection of homelessness and students disabilities. There's also the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Title 1, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Educational Act or ESEA. Other education related laws that you may not have considered prior to this session is the Violence Against Women Act, nondiscrimination laws, and other state laws and regulations related to the education of children generally.
Now, when you're looking at these other education related laws, it's really important to think that McKinney-Vento and homelessness, particularly student homelessness, do not exist in a vacuum. It often touches and concerns different identities. As I have previously mentioned, student homelessness includes those who identify as LGBTQ youth, children and youth with disabilities and these education related laws attempt to address the education rights of those intersecting identities at school.
Now let's talk about the substantive parts of McKinney-Vento. And in this next slide that you're looking at is the statement of policy, which is the statutory language from 42 USC 11431. McKinney-Vento guarantees equal access to free appropriate public education. There's also an ongoing affirmative obligation to review and revise barriers to identification, enrollment, attendance, and success, and school of homeless students. And this is a pretty broad, but very important requirement for state and local educational agencies and we'll get through this in the next few slides.
The third requirement under McKinney-Vento is that it prohibits segregation of homeless students. So those programs, those school programs that segregates students who are houseless, who are experiencing homelessness may be in violation of this federal law. And lastly, McKinney-Vento provides the opportunity to meet the same challenging state academic standards to which other students are held.
What is the definition of homelessness? Well, under McKinney-Vento, a person is considered experiencing homelessness when they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. It's important to note that this evaluation must be done on an individual basis. There's really no checklist on who qualifies as homeless. What's great about this definition is that the statute also provides examples of living arrangements that is not exclusive.
One tip I can give you is that when you're in doubt about the definition or whether someone qualifies under McKinney-Vento, go back to the statutory definition and look at whether the living arrangement is temporary or permanent. Homelessness includes living doubled up because the student and/or their family lost their home or due to other financial problems. Homelessness includes those individuals, those students staying in a motel, hotel, trailer park or campground because they have nowhere else to go. Homelessness also includes those living in the shelter, staying in substandard housing and substandard may mean differently across state lines. It may mean differently depending on which community, which locality you're located in. Homelessness also includes those individuals, those students living in places not ordinarily used for sleeping and that includes cars, parks, outdoor spaces, public spaces, abandoned buildings, even bus or train stations.
The other thing I would note is that homelessness also includes those who are abandoned in the hospital. So these are just some of the examples that are provided under the statue by McKinney-Vento. And again, it's really important to note that this list is non-exclusive, there is no checklist, and that each individual circumstance must be considered based on the facts of that case. So now I want to talk to you about who implements and complies with the federal law. To achieve McKinney-Vento's goals, the US Department of Education has the power to provide grant funding to states participating in the program. And in turn, the state educational agency must make competitive sub grants to local educational agencies for the purpose of facilitating the identification, enrollment, attendance, and success in school of homeless children and youth.
Now these grants may be used among other things to carry out a broad congressional policies that we had just talked about to provide activities and services to homeless children and youth, to establish an office of the coordinator for education of homeless children and youth, to prepare and carry out the required state plan under McKinney-Vento, and to develop and implement professional development programs for school staff to increase awareness of and capacity to respond to the needs of homeless children and youth. Now it's important to note that state educational agencies and local educational agencies implement and comply with the law. Each State Educational Agency or SEA is required to have a state coordinator for homeless education to ensure compliance with McKinney-Vento and each Local Educational Agency or LEA is required to have a liaison to ensure students experiencing homelessness receive the services and support they are entitled to under the law.
Often at the local educational agency level, the liaison is commonly referred to as the Homeless Liaison. And so if you're looking for the LEA officer in charge of implementing McKinney-Vento, the best way to find them in the local public school is to ask for who the Homeless Liaison is. Now, depending on the community, depending on the program in the school, they may have a different title, but for the most part, most schools use the term Homeless Liaison when they're referring to an officer for the local educational agency in charge of implementing this federal law.
Now I want to talk to you about the responsibilities of state educational agencies and state coordinators. Again, these entities are in charge of ensuring compliance with McKinney-Vento. They provide technical assistance to and conduct monitoring of LEAs. Part of their duty is to increase transparency to collect and disaggregate data to identify and address and needs of homeless children and youth. They also publicize information in homeless children and youth including problems and challenges, successes and programs. They develop and carry out the state plan. And this is something important to remember because if you're trying to figure out how each state is in compliance or plans to comply with McKinney-Vento, you may need to look at the state plan to better understand how school districts in your state are participating and complying with this federal law.
State coordinators and SEAs also collaborate and coordinate with Homeless Liaisons, with school personnel, with homeless service providers, child welfare and social services agencies, and other community organizations and groups that work with and represent homeless children and youth and their families including policymakers. They also provide training to liaisons under definitions of terms related to homelessness. They also provide professional development opportunities for school personnel and liaisons, Homeless Liaisons, to identify and meet the needs of homeless children and youth. And lastly, they also respond to inquiries from parents and guardians of homeless children and youth.
Now I want to turn our attention to the responsibilities of local educational agencies or school districts and Homeless Liaisons. And just like the responsibilities of state educational agencies and state coordinators, these duties and responsibilities are outlined in the federal law. Generally, their duties include ensuring educational continuity and stability, duty to immediately enroll homeless children and youth, and to provide transportation to and from school related activities.
Now, I want to circle back to these three big pillars that I just talked about and expand on some of these duties. So it's also required under the law for liaisons and school districts to identify homeless children and youth through outreach and coordination. They must enroll and provide homeless children and youth with full and equal opportunity to succeed in school. They must ensure access to and receive educational services including verifying and affirming eligibility for other housing supports and homeless supports and services. They provide referrals to supports and services outside of the school. They can coordinate with the state coordinator and the state educational agencies and others to meet the needs of homeless children and youth.
Homeless Liaisons and LEAs also inform parents and guardians of educational related opportunities and transportation services. They disseminate public notice of educational rights. They mediate enrollment disputes, and this is something that we will get to greater detail in the next few slides. They also inform unaccompanied youth of independent status for financial aid purposes under FAFSA. They carry out the dispute resolution process as expeditiously as possible. And lastly, and this is something that I have mention in the previous slide, participate in state coordinators professional development opportunities.
We've covered a lot of ground these past few slides. So I just want to do a recap of what we have talked about and what we've covered thus far. We talked about the McKinney-Vento basics. How it guarantees equal access to free appropriate public education, how there's an ongoing affirmative obligation to review and revise barriers to the identification, enrollment, attendance, and success in school. How it prohibits segregation of homeless students and how it provides opportunity to meet same challenging state academic standards as other non-homeless students.
Now, when it comes to a definition of homelessness, the main definition under the statue is that those who lack a fixed regular and adequate nighttime residences qualify under McKinney-Vento. And again, as a reminder, there is no checklist of who qualifies under the federal law. Each case must be determined on an individual basis. In terms of who implements and compliance with the law, there are two main entities, the state educational agency and the local educational agency. On the state educational agency level we have the state coordinators that have specific statutory responsibilities under the law. And likewise, on the local educational level, we have Homeless Liaisons or LEA liaisons that also have statutory duties under the law.
Now I want to talk to you about the educational rights, substantive educational rights under McKinney-Vento. So this slide shows you what the educational rights are under the statute, this includes the right to remain in the school of origin even if a student moves, right to enroll in any public school or other non-homeless students living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend. There's also the right to immediately enroll in a new school without typically required records. There's a right to participate fully in school activities, the right to receive transportation to and from school related activities. The right to receive related school services that homeless students may need. And lastly, but equally important, the right to dispute decisions made by schools and school districts.
And we'll get to this last point in the next few slides, but I just want to circle back with some of these educational rights that we had just talked about. So when we talk about a school of origin, that actually has a specific statutory definition. So school of origin is either the school that a student last attended when permanently housed or the school in which the student was last enrolled. And this also includes those schools, those feeder schools that receive homeless students in their enrollment. And when we to talk about enrolling, enroll means permitting the student to attend classes and participate fully in school activities. Now, McKinney-Vento does not define school activities, but it includes field trips and other extracurricular activities at school. Participation in sports are covered as well. These activities actually help keep students engaged in school and given the loss requirements to remove policies that act as barriers, schools may need to provide fee waivers to facilitate access to some school programs.
What these educational rights get into is providing homeless children and youth much needed stability at a time when they are experiencing great instability in their lives. McKinney-Vento in a nutshell allows a student who is attending a public school in district A, for example, to attend that same school if they happen to be experiencing homelessness and have been displaced due to that homelessness and end up living in district B.
Now, when it comes to determining which school to attend, there are statutory requirements that you have to consider when working with homeless children and youth. School placement decisions are made according to the child or youths' best interests. And there is a presumption that attending the school of origin is in the best interests of the child or youth except on contrary to the request of that unaccompanied youth, parent, or guardian.
Determinations, school determinations are facts specific, student-centered has to be individualized determination that include factors related to the impact of mobility and achievement, education, health, and safety of the child or youth. Now, it's really important to note that if there is a dispute arising over eligibility, over school selection or over enrollment, the child or youth must remain enrolled until all disputes are resolved. And this last piece is really important to remember because sometimes you'll run into a school or school district where they immediately disenroll the homeless student even though there is an ongoing dispute over their eligibility, their school selection, or enrollment.
Now let's talk about getting homeless students to school. Once a student is McKinney-Vento eligible, school districts provide or arrange transportation for students to and from their schools of origin upon request. Requirement applies even when a student moves to a different city, county, or school district and must cross attendance zones or school district lines. Homeless Liaisons must help set up the transportation. Homeless students must also receive transportation comparable to those offered to non-homeless students in the new district that they attend. And lastly, districts are subject to an overarching obligation to remove barriers to the enrollment and retention of homeless students which may require them to go above and beyond what is provided to permanently house students.
Now we've covered a lot of ground in terms of talking about McKinney-Vento. And I just want to remind you that there are substantive rights available under the law, and that includes the right to remain in the school of origin even if they move and experience homelessness or the right to enroll in any public school where other non-homeless students living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend. There's also the right to immediately enroll in a new school without typically required records like immunization records or proof of address and the right to participate fully in school activities and the right to receive transportation to. And from those school related activities among other things.
There are also statutory requirements in determining which school to attend. Again, school placement decisions are made according to the child or youth's best interest. And that there's a presumption that attending the school of origin is in the best interest of that child or youth. Additionally, there are requirements for school districts for local educational agencies to provide transportation to help homeless students get to school.
Now I want to talk about the nuts and bolts of the dispute resolution process. You may remember in a prior slide where we talked about how if there is dispute arising over eligibility, school selection or enrollment, the child or youth must remain enrolled until all disputes are resolved. If a dispute arises over these issues, the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth must be provided with a written explanation of any decisions related to the school selection or enrollment made by the school, the local educational agency, the school district, or the state educational agency involved and that includes the right of the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth to appeal such decisions. And to recap, the definition of school of origin includes the school last attended or the school attended when permanently housed while enrollment is defined as including attending classes and participating fully in school activities.
When you're dealing with the dispute resolution process, the chances of you dealing with best-interest determination is also pretty high. And so I want to give you some tips and considerations about the best interest determination, things that you should be considering as you navigate a dispute resolution process. And that includes school placement decisions. Again, as a reminder, these decisions must be made according to the child or youths best interest. They have to be fact specific and they have to be an individualized assessment. Furthermore, school districts must presume that attending the school of origin is in the best interest of the child. Again, going back to one of the core principles of McKinney-Vento is to provide school stability for children and youth experiencing homelessness. And one way that that goal is accomplished is by allowing the child or youth to attend the same school that they were attending before they experienced homelessness.
I also want to note that priority is given to the parents, the guardians, or the unaccompanied youth request. Again, local educational agencies must consider student-centered factors. So for preschoolers, schools may consider attachment to teachers, availability and quality of services in the new area, the time it will take to travel from the new place to the school district. Other factors may include, or maybe related to the impact of mobility on achievement, education, health and safety of homeless children and youth. Giving priority to the request of the child's or youth's parent or guardian, or in case of unaccompanied youth, the youth themselves. Another consideration is the notice requirement. Now we've covered this in the prior slide so I'm not going to dwell on it anymore.
However, I do want to point out that there is a notice requirement under the dispute resolution process under McKinney-Vento. As I had previously said, if there is a dispute arising over eligibility, school selection, or enrollment, the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth must be provided with a written explanation of any decisions related to school selection or enrollment made by the school. And that notice must include the rights of the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth to appeal such decisions.
The other consideration I wanted to point out is this written decision requirement. You may remember that we had talked about in determining the best interests of the child or youth, the LEA school district must provide written explanation of its decision or determination if it disagrees with the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth after considering these factors in a manner and form understandable to the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth. And the reason why I'm pointing out this notice requirement and the written decision requirement is that oftentimes when you're dealing with a school district, you may run into a problem where the school itself does not have any policy about working with the child, or the youth, or their parents in navigating the dispute resolution process. You may run into a case where the child or youth was found ineligible, but they were never informed of such ineligibility or not informed of their right to appeal such decision.
The last thing I want to point out is dependency requirement. If a dispute arises over eligibility or school selection or enrollment in a school, the child, or unaccompanied youth must be immediately enrolled in the school where enrollment is sought, pending final resolution of the dispute. And that includes all available appeals. And this is a very important requirement under McKinney-Vento. Again, going back to that policy goal of providing educational continuity and stability for children and youth experiencing homelessness, we want them to be able to immediately enroll in the school that they're trying to enroll themselves into. If they get this enrolled, there's a high likelihood that they'll fall behind schoolwork and experience further instability.
Before we move on to the next slide, I just want to highlight the importance of the dispute resolution process. Now this dispute resolution process is often the only opportunity to ensure the provisions of the federal McKinney-Vento Act to protect and advance the rights of homeless children and youth. A robust and reliable dispute resolution process ensures that conflicts are resolved in an efficient, timely, and fair manner.
In addition to the nuts and bolts of the dispute resolution process that we had just covered, I also want to flag a couple of legal considerations that I think it's really helpful for you to know as you help someone navigate the dispute resolution process. And that includes first, impartiality. So ask yourself who makes a decision and are there any conflicts of interest? Hearing officers must be impartial and well trained and should be instructed that they have a duty to ensure fairness including whenever necessary, helping pro se families understand the legal standards and present their evidence. You may run into a situation where the decision maker is also the Homeless Liaison trying to help the family enroll in school. So if there is a dispute about the school enrollment or eligibility and the Homeless Liaison represents the interest of the school district or the school, but at the same time, trying to represent the best interests of the child, then there is a conflict of interest.
The other thing to note is the issue a variability. There's not much to say here, except that if a student moves across school district lines, you may run into situation where the dispute resolution process of one school is remarkably different from the dispute resolution process of the other school and this may be true if a student is dealing with a dispute resolution process where they are trying to enroll in a school that is also located in a different state.
The other legal consideration that I want to flag for you is the issue of accessibility. For many parents, children, and youth, the dispute resolution process can be very confusing or frustrating and it may sound too legal for them. So we've encouraged school districts and local educational agencies to find alternatives to make the dispute resolution process less litigious. And this can come in the form of a conflict resolution or a mediation. Be mindful though that the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth will have to take time off from their busy schedules at a time when they are experiencing great instability. The need to travel may cost difficulties to initiate the dispute. The family may also want to seek legal representation which can require additional time.
Another legal consideration is the scope. Thinking about how the dispute resolution process can be limited in what is covered. So for example, enrollment may be covered, but not transportation or sports related issues even though all of this should be encompassed within the dispute resolution process. In some situations, the dispute resolution process can be coupled with other grievance mechanisms and procedures to resolve multiple disputes. When you're working with someone to navigate the dispute resolution process, you should also consider the scope of the remedies available. And it's not just missed school days, but you should all also consider important key policy changes to what the school district or the state educational agency is doing in order to improve and increase compliance with McKinney-Vento. I would note however that there is really no one size fits all approach to the dispute resolution process. Some states have dispute resolution procedures that utilize existing grievance procedures, others were shaped by past litigation efforts.
Another legal consideration that I think is very important is the evidentiary standard used within the dispute resolution process. Often students and their families are unaware or unclear of the burden of proof required in the dispute resolution process. So to give you an example, some families may be confused as to what evidence is sufficient to prove that they actually live in the school district or evidence to prove that they're eligible for McKinney-Vento supports and services. On the issue of notice requirements, there's also a need for clarity and transparency explaining the rationale for the decisions made by the school district or the state educational agency. There are issues, as I have previously flagged before, of school districts not putting things in writing as required by the law or the reasoning is vague, unclear, or insufficient.
There's also the pendency requirement that I'm not going to go over in detail, but to remind you that if there is an ongoing dispute on school selection, enrollment, or McKinney-Vento eligibility, the student must be enrolled and must remain enrolled until all pending appeals have been exhausted.
Now, there are other legal considerations that we've already covered including eligibility determinations, but to also note that LEAs may reassess homeless status and eligibility assessments and reassessments are subject to privacy laws and overarching obligation, not to stigmatize homeless children and youth, and the consideration to ensure that homeless children and youth are not segregated due to homelessness.
The other important legal consideration I want to flag for you is that there is actually no time limit on someone experiencing homelessness. Often you'll find school districts saying that this person or this family has been homeless long enough and therefore should not be eligible for McKinney-Vento enrollment or McKinney-Vento supports and services. And that is actually not true. There is no time limit on how long a person, a student, or a family should experience homelessness before they're deemed ineligible for McKinney-Vento services.
In addition to the legal considerations that you need to be aware of in a dispute resolution process, I also want to highlight some of the functions of a legal advocate and the important role that you could play should you find yourself helping a child, a youth, or a family experiencing homelessness navigate dispute resolution process in school.
The first role is that of being the primary advocate. The legal advocate will save the Homeless Liaison some time as well by being the primary advocate. Referring a parent, guardian, or youth to a legal advocate still permits the Homeless Liaison to fulfill their statutory duty to carry out the dispute resolution process as expeditiously as possible after receiving notice of the dispute.
The second role is being the fact finder. Having the family represented by a lawyer early on will allow more issues to be fleshed out and possibly resolved early on, preventing the dispute from escalating to a formal dispute and/or even litigation. The third role is enforcing McKinney-Vento and ensuring compliance. The legal advocate can enforce McKinney-Vento compliance hence saving the state coordinator more time and resources. Having a legal advocate will also allow disagreements not covered by the dispute resolution to be resolved with minimal intervention from the state. The legal advocate can determine the appropriate form for the dispute, given that disputes could arise under other federal education laws, civil rights laws, state laws, and even federal or state constitutions. Lastly, having a legal advocate allows someone to determine an advocate for appropriate remedies for any irreparable harm cost to the homeless student.
As a side note, I just want to highlight the importance of connecting students and their families to the legal advocates given that homeless students have multidimensional legal needs that are often unmet and there are different ways that you can be involved as a legal advocate. You can take on discreet limited scope matters. You can get involved through pro bono work at your law firm, or you can volunteer if you have an organization that works primarily with homeless children and youth or homeless students. We've covered a lot of ground when talking about the dispute resolution process. So I just want to spend some time recapping the key takeaways from the prior slides.
First, the dispute resolution procedure is required in both local and state levels. As a reminder, state educational agencies and local educational agencies implement and comply with the law. Second, there are general and legal considerations for the dispute resolution procedures. You need to think about the best interest determination, notice and written decision requirements, pendency requirement, and in terms of legal considerations, issues around impartiality, variability, accessibility, scope, evidentiary standards, notice requirement and pendency requirement among other things.
Third, lawyers play an important role in advocating for the educational needs and rights of homeless children and youth. Lawyers can be the primary advocate, they can be the fact finder, they can help enforce McKinney-Vento and ensure compliance. Having legal advocate would also allow disagreements not covered by the dispute resolution to be resolved and having a legal advocate allows someone to determine an advocate for appropriate remedies for any irreparable harm caused to the homeless students. And finally, there are several ways that you can get involved either through pro bono, limited scope or full scope representation, or volunteering with a local organization that works directly with homeless children and youth and/or homeless students.
Now, I want to talk to you about implementation and enforcement of McKinney-Vento. McKinney-Vento has been a subject of litigation in different states including District of Columbia, New York, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Delaware, Hawaii, and Louisiana. And most recently was litigated in Missouri where the parties settled and as a result of that settlement, the school district and the state will revise their policies and practices with respect to the McKinney-Vento Act in order to better support the education of students experiencing homelessness in the district and throughout the state. That case is known as Scott C versus Riverview Gardens School District.
McKinney-Vento has been litigated over the years. One of the primary enforcement tools available for many legal advocates across the country is the private enforceability of McKinney-Vento. In 1994, the DC circuit court in Lampkin versus District of Columbia said that McKinney-Vento confers enforceable educational rights on homeless children under section 1983. Post Lampkin, other states have followed suit.
Common subjects of litigation include the failure to grant automatic enrollment while dispute is being resolved which is in violation of McKinney-Vento's pendency requirement where students are required to be enrolled while all disputes are pending. Another subject of litigation is the failure to provide transportation. As a reminder, school districts must provide or arrange for students to and from their schools of origin upon request and homeless students must receive transportation comparable to those offered to non-homeless students in the new district that they attend. Schools are also subject to an overarching obligation to remove barriers including barriers related to transportation.
Other subjects include the failure to recognize and accommodate unaccompanied youth as defined under the statute. The failure to accept appeals of enrollment decisions and other collateral damage such as denial of free appropriate public or denial of participation in extracurricular activities. Remedies have included monetary damages, temporary restraining orders and injunctions. And in cases where the parties agreed to settle, those have resulted in the school district and/or the state, reviewing and revising their policies that may act as barriers to the educational needs of homeless children and youth.
As I said before, McKinney-Vento has been a subject of litigation over the years and some of the litigation themes include McKinney-Vento being privately enforceable under section 1983, something that we've covered in a prior slide under Lampkin versus District of Columbia. Another litigation theme covered as barriers to education must be removed. Third theme is that there's no time limit on homelessness. Again, what this means is that there is no prescribed time for a family to experience homelessness before they're deemed ineligible for McKinney-Vento supports and services. So a school district cannot tell a family or a student that they've been homeless long enough that they should not be eligible for McKinney-Vento.
And lastly, another litigation theme that I wanted to flag is that the cost of homelessness is really irrelevant. In evaluating whether someone is McKinney-Vento eligible, the cost of homelessness should not be a factor in determining whether someone is actually eligible for such McKinney-vento supports and services. If you're interested in learning more about litigation topics, you can find out more information about this through the American Bar Association's Commission on Homelessness and Poverty.
Publication known as Educating Children Without Housing: A Primer on Legal Requirements & Implementation Strategies for Educators, Advocates, and Policymakers. This book addresses the federal educational mandates related to homeless students under McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and the manual provides innovative strategies for educators, school administrators, state coordinators, policymakers, and advocates and attorneys to play a role in ensuring the education rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness are protected. Most recent addition of this book is updated to reflect recent changes in federal law and regulations including Every Student Succeeds Act and other education related programs and laws that we've covered in this session.
In the last few slides I have left for this session, I want to talk briefly about ongoing challenges and possible solutions to address these challenges. First is the fact that there are different definitions of homelessness under federal law. One thing to note is that the US Department of Education has a different definition of homelessness than the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. And we had talked about the definition used by the department of education, and this definition includes those living doubled up or couch surfing. Whereas the definition of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development does not include people living doubled up or couch surfing.
This narrower definition by HUD or the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has ramifications on how data is collected on young people experiencing homelessness. The 1.3 million students experiencing homelessness, that figure I shared with you in the earlier slides is already a huge undercounting because it doesn't include the number of households members experiencing homelessness. Following HUD's definition, there's a bigger undercounting on the number of people experiencing homelessness because HUD's definition for the most part includes only those experiencing street homelessness or those living in homeless shelters.
And because of the differences in collecting data and counting the number of people experiencing homelessness across the country, we are unable to determine the appropriate scale and size of interventions needed to truly end and prevent the intergenerational cycle of homelessness and poverty. The Homeless Children and Youth Act is a bipartisan bill that aims to remove barriers to the US Department Housing and Urban Development Homelessness Assistance for children, youth, and families by aligning HUD's definition of homelessness with those of other federal programs. Even though it has been introduced in prior sessions of Congress, there has not been enough political will to make this change.
In addition to the different definitions of homelessness under federal law, there's also ongoing challenges with the limited enforcement mechanism for McKinney-Vento. As previously mentioned, the dispute resolution process is often the only means available to children, youth, and families in order to enforce their rights under the law. And there are also ongoing coordination and collaboration challenges that is tied to the lack of funding and inadequate resources. To use as an ex example, Homeless Liaisons and state coordinators at the state educational agency level assume multiple roles and often have limited capacity and bandwidth to meet the educational needs of vulnerable homeless children and youth.
Coordination and collaboration could also be a challenge if you are working with different systems of care. Going back to my prior point, because of the different definitions of homelessness on the federal level, there are also different definitions of homelessness that percolate down to the state and local levels depending on which programs you're dealing with. Because of these differences in definition, these systems of care that are designed to protect and meet the needs of homeless children and youth end up working in silos. Furthermore, there are also ongoing challenges on identification of children and youth, only those who are identified or self-identify are eligible for McKinney-Vento supports and services.
Many families and students are unaware of the federal McKinney-Vento law. And a large part of that is due to the stigma associated with experiencing homelessness. Identification can also be a challenge if liaisons and local educational agencies have limited bandwidth, capacity, and insufficient funding to do outreach and identification. There are also ongoing challenges with non-compliance. Most homeless students and their families do not have access to a legal advocate or an attorney to help them navigate the dispute resolution process. Many of them are unable to litigate cases to enforce their rights under the federal law.
Lastly, providing wrap-around comprehensive education and related services remain a challenge for many providers and advocates. Collaboration and coordination with different systems of care is key and critical to not just meet the needs of homeless children and youth, but to ensure that they thrive both inside and outside of school. Before we end our session, I want to highlight additional challenges faced by homeless children and youth. These children and youth beyond enormous educational challenges of homelessness itself face a variety of challenges in simply navigating the world that you and I take for granted.
They may have difficulty obtaining basic necessities due to their inability to sign contracts or consent to services without a parent or guardian because they are minors. They have an increased risk of interaction with the criminal justice system or the juvenile justice system which often makes them fearful of seeking any services. Furthermore, the communities that they live in are under resourced and because of the lack of resources, children in youth may not be aware of these services and service providers may not be aware of or be misinformed of the services that are available and the loss that apply to these children and youth.
To recap, there are several implementation and enforcement issues and ongoing challenges around McKinney-Vento. One of the primary enforcement tools available for many legal advocates across the country is the private enforceability of McKinney-Vento. Cases have been litigated in the past due to school districts and states failure to grant automatic enrollment while this dispute is being resolved, failure to provide transportation, failure to recognize and accommodate unaccompanied youth, failure to accept appeals of enrollment decisions, and failure to provide free appropriate public education or denial of participation in extracurricular activities.
There are also ongoing challenges focused on different definitions of homelessness under federal law, limited enforcement mechanism, coordination and collaboration challenges, lack of funding and inadequate resources, identification challenges, non-compliance and provision of comprehensive education and related services that remain a challenge for many entities. Homeless children and youth encounter many educational barriers at school and barriers outside of school. McKinney-Vento aims to provide these students with educational continuity and stability at a time when they are experiencing trauma and instability in their lives. Knowing McKinney-Vento provides you with tools and resources to better advocate on their behalf.