How Does Your Child Get Educated When Your Home is Gone?

If your family is displaced due to a natural disaster, does that mean that your child will need to miss out on school for a significant amount of time?  Probably not.  Here’s the law on education and temporary homelessness.

Is there a specific law that covers education and temporary living situations?
Yes, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 sets out the rules for children who become homeless.  Originally,  McKinney-Vento was put in place to deal with the growing problem of homelessness in the United States.  It specifically covers children who live with any other person (including relatives) due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.  Also covered are children living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camp grounds, emergency or transitional shelters or have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for regular sleeping, such cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings and migratory children. Originally the law did not speak to children displaced by a natural disaster but after Katrina, McKinney-Vento was extended to include these children as well.

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  • Martianne Stanger

    Interesting. I did not know about these laws and will be sure to pass the info on to those I know who may need it.

  • Judy Endow

    Great information! Passing along on social media venues. Thanks

  • Joanna Keating-Velasco

    As a side note, for many with special needs (especially those on the autism spectrum), change is extremely challenging. If the displacement were for two weeks or less, adding the change of placing the child in a strange environment with those who don’t know your child could possibly cause additional stresses. One might consider educating their child themselves through whatever opportunities they can find within their reach. If they can get to their local library, which might be a familiar setting to the child, this might be a location to work on keeping their skills up to par. If your familiar local family church is available this might be a place to use as your school. Or perhaps a familiar friend’s home can be used. Keeping as many things the same as possible while introducing learning opportunities can help ease the stress of being without your typical education spot. Sometimes wading in the streams of bureaucracy within a school district could delay the opportunities that are quickly within our reach.

  • Katie Kelly

    Joanna, good points. I was clarifying what legal rights are invoked after a natural disaster. The legal standard is very different than what a parent may decide to do. Schools are legally mandated to accept children who are the victim of a natural disaster, if they are going to be away from their home school for “several weeks”; it’s a legal guideline that parents can work around depending on their child’s needs. Some children will view the new school as a change and a challenge, some will seek the routine and familiarity that a school can provide. As always, the parent knows best.

  • Katie Kelly

    Thanks, Judy!! Hope you were far away from the storms!!

  • Katie Kelly

    The entire McKinney-Vento act is very interesting (at least to a law nerd like me…lol). Did you know that if a child becomes homeless and needs to live temporarily outside of his home district, that the home district is likely responsible for busing him from his new living quarters to the school he was attending when he became homeless? Even if the student is staying with relatives temporarily, if it’s a homelessness situation, his district still has to transport him back to his home school (unless it’s in another city, of course). It’s a wonderful bill meant to ensure continuity in education for children who have difficult living situations.

  • D. S. Walker

    It always good to know your legal rights.