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 for Supporting School Selection:  Parents

School of Origin Considerations: Local School Considerations:
  
Overall continuity
Has your child attended the school of origin for a long time?
  
Overall continuity
Has your child attended the school of origin for only a brief time?
  
Length of anticipated stay at current residence
Do you expect that you and your child will have to move again very soon, or are you unsure how long you can stay?
  
Length of anticipated stay at current residence
Do you expect that you and your child will be able to stay where you are staying now for a while?
  
Time of year
Is it late in the academic year?
  
Time of year
Is it early in the academic year?
  
Personal safety of the student
Does the school of origin have advantages for the safety of your child?
  
Personal safety of the student
Does the local school  have advantages for the safety of your child?
  
Interaction with peers
Is maintaining school friends important to your child's emotional well-being, meaningful school experience and participation?
  
Interaction with peers
Would your child benefit from developing relationships with school peers who live closer to his/her new community?
  
Academic strength
Is your child likely to fall far behind if he/she transfers to another school?
  
Academic strength
Is your child likely to recover academically from a school transfer?
  
Social and emotional state
Has your child developed strong ties to the current school and does not want to leave the school?  do changes in the environment or routine provoke anxiety or other difficulties for your child?
 
Social and emotional state
Has your child experienced challenges at the current school and/or does not mind transferring to a new school?
  
Impact of the commute on the student's education
Do the advantages of continuing to attend the school of origin outweigh any potential disadvantages presented by the commute?
  
Impact of the commute on the student's education
Would a shorter commute help your child's concentration in, attitude toward, or readiness for school?
  Student's need for special instruction
Does your child receive, or is he/she currently being evaluated for special education or other special services at school?  Is it best for your child to continue receiving those services or complete the evaluation at the school of origin?
  Student's need for special instruction
If your child receives, or is currently being evaluated for, special education or other special services at school, can the local school better meet your child's needs? 
  Participation in extracurricular activities
Is your child active in extracurricular activities that are meaningful and important to him/her at the school of origin, and will your child be able to continue those activities while living in your current living situation? 
  Participation in extracurricular activities
Would your child be better able to take advantage of extracurricular activities, if he/she so desired, at the local school?

Considerations for Supporting School Selection:  Unaccompanied Youth

School of Origin Considerations: Local School Considerations:
  
Overall continuity
Have you attended the school of origin for a long time?
  
Overall continuity
Have you attended the school of origin for only a brief time?
  
Length of anticipated stay at current residence
Do you think that you will have to move again very soon, or are you unsure how how long you can stay?
  
Length of anticipated stay at current residence
Do you think that you will be able to stay where you are staying now for a while?
  
Time of year
Is it late in the academic year?
  
Time of year
Is it early in the academic year?
  
Personal safety of the student
Do you feel safer at the school of origin?
  
Personal safety of the student
Do you think you would feel safer at the local school?
  
Interaction with peers
How important to you are your friendships at your current school?  Is keeping those friends close important to your emotional well-being, school success and participation?
  
Interaction with peers
Are you looking forward to making new friends with school peers who live closer to where you are staying now?
  
Academic strength
When you have changed schools before, was it really hard for you to stay or track and/or catch up?
  
Academic strength
Has it been easy for you to keep up with classes and schoolwork when you have changed schools before?
  
Social and emotional state
Have you developed strong ties and bonds to the current school and do not want to leave the school?  Do changes in your environment or routine provoke anxiety or other difficulties for you?
  
Social and emotional state
Have you experienced a lot of challenges at the current school so that a fresh start at a new school sounds good to you?
  
Impact of the commute on the student's education
Do the advantages of continuing to attend the school of origin outweigh any potential disadvantages presented by the commute?
  
Impact of the commute on the student's education
Would a shorter commute help you concentrate, pay attention, or participate in school?
  Student's need for special instruction
Do you receive, or are you currently being evaluated for, special education or other special services at school?  Do you feel like it is best for you to continue receiving those services or complete the evaluation at the school of origin?
  Student's need for special instruction
If you receive, or are currently being evaluated for, special education or other special services at school, do you think starting that process in a new school might better meet your needs? 
  Participation in extracurricular activities
Are you active in extracurricular activities that are meaningful and important to you at the school of origin, and will you be able to continue those activities while living in your current living situation? 
  Participation in extracurricular activities
Would it be easier for you to participate in extracurricular activities, if you want to participate, at the local school? 

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.

DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS

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, Amelia Lyons, at 207-557-1787 or by e-mail amelia.lyons@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.

Forms:

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 
207-596-6620

Maine's Education Department Homeless Liaison
Amelia Lyons
207-557-1787 
amelia.lyons@maine.gov

Additional Mid-Coast Region Resources for Homeless Services:

RSU/MSAD 40 Homeless Liaison
Christina Wotton
207-785-2277 Ext 235
207-590-8198
Christina_Wotton@msad40.org

Camden/Rockport Homeless Liaison
Valerie Mattes
207-236-7812
valerie.mattes@fivetowns.net

Knox County Homeless Coalition
PO Box 1696
Rockland, ME  04841
207-974-2435
info@homehelphope.org

Hospitality House
169 Old County Road
Rockport, ME  04841
207-593-8151

The Landing Place
Joseph Hufnagel, Director
61 Park Street
Rockland, ME  04841
207-466-9285
Jhufnagel@thelandingplaceme.org