January 16, 2014 – Teenage brothers, who were disenrolled from the Easton Area School District because their family was experiencing homelessness, are back in school as a result of legal action by the Education Law Center.
The Law Center filed the case in early December when the students — one of whom is in 12th grade — were abruptly disenrolled from Easton Area High School because they lived with their parents in a camper outside the district.
“The federal McKinney-Vento Act requires school districts to continue to educate students experiencing homelessness even when they are living outside their prior district. The Act also requires the state to ensure that school districts comply with this law in part by resolving enrollment disputes,” said Maura McInerney, ELC Staff Attorney.
In response to ELC’s motion for a preliminary injunction and presentation of the dispute to the court, the District agreed to re-enroll the children days later.
A record number of public school students have become homeless in Pennsylvania and in the nation, putting more than 1.1 million children nationally at increased risk of falling behind in school, dropping out and perpetuating the cycle of homelessness. In Pennsylvania, the number of K-12 students experiencing homelessness increased to 19,905 in 2012 from 18,531 the previous year, an increase of 7 percent. In the nation, the number of homeless students increased by 10 percent, according to October 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Education.
The Law Center has urged the state to adopt guidance to improve the dispute resolution process for families and to ensure that what happened to these students will not happen to others.
“We have asked the state to issue guidance explaining that school districts cannot unilaterally disenroll students based on the duration of homelessness, and that families must be notified — in writing — of the basis of any decision to deny enrollment, including the resolution of appeals to the state. Children have the right to stay in school as long as a dispute is pending,” said McInerney.
The family has since secured permanent housing within the District, and ELC has withdrawn its lawsuit.
“This is a terrific outcome for these students and this family,” said McInerney.
Education Law Center
Office: 215-238-6970 ext. 334