Homeless Students

RSU 13 Services for Homeless Students and Enrollment Dispute Resolution Process  

RSU 13 realizes that homelessness alone should not be a sufficient reason to separate learners from the school learning environment.  RSU 13 strives to ensure that homeless learners are identified and provided access to the same free and appropriate public education provided to all learners in the school system.  In accordance with federal and state law and regulations, RSU 13 will provide homeless learners access to the instructional programming that supports achievement of the content standards of Maine's system of Learning Results and to other services for which they are eligible.  Learners shall not be segregated into a separate school or program based on their status as homeless, nor shall they be stigmatized in any way.  

The federal law governing homeless learners is the McKinney-Vento Act.  Under this legislation, homeless students are guaranteed the right to a free, appropriate, public education. When students become homeless, they can remain enrolled in the schools they have been attending, although they might no longer meet residency requirements. McKinney-Vento also guarantees homeless students the right to enroll in a public school even if they lack the typically required documents and immunizations. In addition, homeless students are guaranteed the transportation they need to attend school.

What is meant by the term “homeless children and youths”?

Section 725(2) of the McKinney-Vento Act  defines “homeless children and youths” as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes—

  • Children and youths who are:
    • sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as “doubled-up”);
    • living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
    • living in emergency or transitional shelters; or
    • abandoned in hospitals;
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are living in circumstances described above.

McKinney-Vento definitions include:

  • "School of selection" is the school of origin, or the school of residence.
  • "School of origin" as the school the child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled.
  • "Enrollment" as attending classes and participating fully in school activities.  Parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth must be able to initiate a dispute resolution process either in writing or orally directly at the selected school site if any enrollment dispute arises.

School Registration & Enrollment:

Families, guardians, or unaccompanied youth initiate school registration and enrollment procedures at the school most appropriate to the learner’s residency and grade level.  When self-identification or the conditions of homeless become known, administrative assistants and/or other appropriate school officials will communicate with those impacted regarding services available to support students within their school of origin. The RSU 13 Homeless Liaison and the RSU 13 Superintendent’s Office administrative assistant will be notified regarding all identified homeless students.

RSU 13 Best Interest and Placement Determinations:

Factors to be considered in consultation with the RSU 13 Homeless Liaison, parents or acting guardians, unaccompanied youth, school of origin personnel, partnering school district personnel, and sponsoring agencies as appropriate and necessary for placement determinations that are in the best interest of homeless students:

Considerations & Factors: Applicable NA
1. Continuation at school of origin.

2. Continuity of educational programming.

3. Need for special instructional program.

4. Transportation needs.

5. Time and arrangements required for transportation reasonable & developmentally appropriate.

6. School placement of siblings.

7. Time remaining until the end of semester or end of school year.

8. Confirmation of fixed address and adequate residence

RSU 13 is committed within policy and practice to ensure that any student while homeless has access to a free, appropriate public education, including public preschool education, as provided to other students.  Every attempt will be made to continue school placement at the student’s school of origin, unless factors or circumstances exist that suggest a school of origin placement is not in the best interest of the student.

Any placement decision that does not continue attendance at a student’s school of origin will be communicated to the student’s parent or guardian in writing indicating the conditions and reasons recommending an alternative placement. This written notice will also include a referral the RSU 13 Homeless Dispute Resolution Process.  If a dispute resolution process is initiated, student placement at the school of origin will be maintained pending the dispute process outcome.

Educational and Transportation Services: 

Homeless students shall be provided services comparable to those offered to other students in the same school, including:

  • Educational services for which the student is eligible, including but not limited to public Pre-K programs, special education, gifted and talented programs, vocational programs, Title I and limited English proficiency programs.
  • Transportation services. If a homeless student residing in the School Unit is enrolled in his/her school of origin in another school unit, or if a homeless student residing in another school unit continues to attend his/her school of origin, Regional School Unit No. 13 shall share the responsibility and reasonable costs for providing the student with transportation to and from the school of origin with the other school unit.


The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (PL107-110, Section 722) expands the responsibility of Maine Department of Education and LEA’s to ensure educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. All LEA’s must ensure coordination of their efforts on behalf of homeless children and youth with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvement Act, Title X, Part C and DOE directives. Part of that coordination is to implement procedures for the prompt resolution of disputes regarding school selection and enrollment for homeless children and youth.

  • If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment, the child/youth must be immediately enrolled in the school in which he/she is seeking enrollment, pending resolution of the dispute.  The enrollment occurs at the school where the student enrolls and the school notifies the RSU 13 homeless liaison if a dispute is indicated.
  • The homeless liaison will confer with the learner, parent, and/or guardian to carry out the dispute resolution process as expeditiously as possible.  This also happens for unaccompanied youth.  An initial contact to begin resolution efforts occurs within the first week of enrollment in school if a dispute is indicated.
  • During the process, the school district (pursuant to RSU 13 Policy JFABD)  identify considerations that led to the placement decision which may include the ability of the school district to provide continuity in educational programs, the need of the homeless learner for special instructional program, the amount of time and arrangements required to transport the student to the original school district, the age of the homeless student and the school placement of siblings, and the time remaining until the end of the semester or the end of the school year.
  • A written explanation of the school’s decision regarding school selection or enrollment will be provided if a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth disputes such a school selection or enrollment decision, including the right to appeal.  The written explanation shall be complete, as brief as possible, simply stated, and provided in easy to understand language.
  • If the dispute remains unresolved at the district level or is appealed, then the district homeless liaison shall forward all written documentation and related paperwork to the Truancy, Dropout, Alternative Education, and McKinney-Vento State Coordinator. Upon the review of the LEA and parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth information, the State Homeless Coordinator will notify the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth of the final school selection or enrollment decision within ten (10) working days of receipt of materials. You may reach the State Homeless Coordinator, Gayle Erdheim, at 207-624-6637 or by e-mail gayle.erdheim@maine.gov.

Other information to know as a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth: 

  • You can provide written or oral documentation to support your positions about school selection or enrollment.
  • You can seek assistance of social services, advocates, lawyers, and/or service providers in the dispute process
  • You will receive documentation for your records of the dispute form and the outcome of the dispute.

Within any enrollment dispute resolution process, RSU 13 will:

  • Inform parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth that they can provide written or oral documentation to support their positions about school selection or enrollment.
  • Inform parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth that they can seek assistance of social services, advocates, lawyers, and/or social service providers in the dispute process.
  • Provide a simple dispute form that parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth can complete and turn into the school to initiate a dispute resolution process. Provide a copy to parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth for their records.
  • Provide a copy to parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth for their records when the dispute form is submitted to the school.

Provide a copy to parents, guardians, or unaccompanied youth for their records of the outcome of the dispute, even when the dispute is immediately resolved satisfactorily without a dispute hearing.


Coordination with Other School Units and Agencies:

The Homeless Liaison shall be responsible for coordinating with local social service and other agencies and other school units as necessary to ensure that homeless children and youth have access to education and related support services.

The RSU 13 Homeless Liaison 
Neal Guyer, Projects Director 

Maine's Education Department Homeless Liaison
Gayle Erdheim

Additional Mid-Coast Region Resources for Homeless Services:

RSU/MSAD 40 Homeless Liaison
Christina Wotton
207-785-2277 Ext 235

Camden/Rockport Homeless Liaison
Valerie Mattes

Knox County Homeless Coalition
PO Box 1696
Rockland, ME  04841

Hospitality House
169 Old County Road
Rockport, ME  04841

The Landing Place
Joseph Hufnagel, Director
61 Park Street
Rockland, ME  04841