Can My Kids Stay in the Same School if we Become Homeless? What Educational Rights do my Children Have if we Become Homeless?

We Became Homeless, Where Can My Child Attend School?

If your family becomes homeless, your child may have the right to remain in the same school district even if you move to another town. Please read the information below to find out what your child’s rights are:

The McKinney-Vento Act was passed by Congress in 1987.  The law gives homeless children the right to:

Remain in the same school district if they become homeless as long as it is in the child’s best interest.  It may be in your child’s best interest to remain in the same school if:

They have been in the same school for a long period of time, your child is active in extracurricular activities (on a sports team, attends clubs etc…), If your child is going to be graduating high school, if they have a lot of friends in school and feel a connection to the school. 

It may not be in your child’s best interest if: They are young and you are moving far from the school, if they are entering kindergarten and never attended school in that district and does not have a sibling they would be in school with, if you left housing due to a domestic violence situation (it may not be safe for your child to continue to attend that school),  If the family moves over 50 miles away

Get immediate enrollment in a new school without required documents such as proof of residency, immunizations or prior school records or a parent or guardian present.  If your child is not enrolled in school and you try to enroll your child without documentation and the registration office is giving you a hard time ask to speak to the homeless liaison (each school district must have a designated homeless liaison to assist homeless families in their school district).

Get transportation – The school district must provide transportation for the child to get back and forth to school.  If a child is living in a shelter the local Social Services Department will provide transportation.  When your family finds permanent housing, your family is entitled to remain in the same school district for the rest of the school year and one additional year if the following year will be the child’s last year in the building ex an 11th grade student is allowed to attend that same school district the following year to complete their last year of high school even if they move.

Are entitled to receive all the same educational services as a non-homeless child in the district.

Assistance with obtaining school supplies and clothing for school.

Who is considered a homeless child?

A child who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.

Fixed: A fix residence is one that is stationary, permanent, not subject to change attached to the ground.  Are you living in a car, van or tent? Are you living on a campground?  If you answered yes, then your housing is not fixed.

Regular:  A regular residence is one which is used on a predictable or routine basis. – Can I go there every night?  Do I have keys?  Do I have a legal right to be there? If you answered no to any of those questions then the housing may not be regular

Adequate: An adequate residence is one that is sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in a home environment. Does the residence have running water?  Is it overcrowded?  Do you have your own bed? Are you sleeping on the floor?  If you answered no to any of those questions the housing may not be adequate. 

To be considered homeless you just have to be lacking one.  A permanently housed individual has a fixed, regular and adequate place to live.

Below are all examples of children who can be considered homeless:

  1. This includes children who are sharing a home with a friend or family member due to loss of housing or economic hardship
  2. children living in motels, trailer parks or camping grounds because they have nowhere else to go
  3. migratory child
  4. A child living in places not usually used for sleeping such as  a car, public place or abandoned buildings
  5.  A child abandoned in a hospital,
  6.  A child awaiting a foster care placement
  7. A child living in a shelter

What if I am a youth living on my own, am I covered under the law?

Yes, the law covers homeless youth who are not living with a parent or guardian.  These children are called unaccompanied youth.

An unaccompanied youth include youth who:

  1. Youth who were asked to leave their home by a parent or guardian
  2. Youth who left home with parental consent
  3. Youth who ran away from home
  4. Youth who have no formal custody arrangements when their parent is in the hospital, rehabilitation center or jail.
  5. Do not have a Fixed, Regular or Adequate place to live.

Choice of District

Children who are homeless may have some options when attending school.

  1. They can stay in their current district – The school district the children are currently attending if it within 50 miles of the current residence.
  2. Their district of origin – The school district of origin is the school district they were in before becoming homeless as long as it is within 50 miles of where they are currently living.
  3. The district where they are currently residing.  For example, say you had to move in with some friends temporary, and the friends live in North Shore SD.  You would be able to enroll your children into the North Shore SD. 

Who at the school district can help me?

Under the law, every school district is required to have a Homeless Liaison or Coordinator.  This person is required to help homeless children enroll and succeed in school and set up transportation and free lunch and if available in the school district free breakfast. To find out who the Liaison is in your district contact the school districts central office.

What else can my school’s liaison or coordinator do for me?

Liaisons or Coordinators can provide helpful information.   Each school district has Title 1 or Set-Aside funds that may help with the following help with school supplies, supplies needed for after-school activities, setting up transportation or after school or special activities, many will pay for you to attend class trips and special events, tutoring or mentoring services.  Make sure you ask what your school can do for you.


School Districts must provide transportation to and from school if the family becomes homeless, however, the law does not say what kind of transportation.  Often times the school district will set up a regular school bus other times they may pay for a public bus, train or subway, or a taxi, van or another type of car.  The transportation provided must be safe for the child.

If you moved to permanent housing during the school year, your child has the right to remain in that school for the remainder of the school year as long as the permanent housing is within 50 miles from the school district.  The district’s homeless liaison will assist with setting up transportation.

If the following year will be your child’s last year in that school building, then they have the right to remain in that school district for one additional year.  For example, if your child is the 11th grade, your child will be allowed to continue to attend that school the following year to graduate and the district is responsible for providing transportation.

Signs a Student May be Homeless

  1. A child who has attended many different schools
  2. A child has poor attendance
  3. A child who is often tired or sleeping in class
  4. A child who has poor hygiene
  5. A child who is not prepared for school ie. does not have a backpack, books, pencils, homework not completed.
  6. A child who has a change in behavior i.e withdraws, shyness, nervousness, aggression or anger.

If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your child’s educational rights please e-mail us at  We will answer any questions