Ed Law Center Files Federal Court Complaint Asserting the Right of Homeless Student Placed in Shelter School to Attend Local Public School


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 4, 2015


ED LAW CENTER FILES FEDERAL COURT COMPLAINT ASSERTING THE RIGHT OF HOMELESS STUDENT PLACED IN SHELTER SCHOOL TO ATTEND LOCAL PUBLIC SCHOOL

PENNSYLVANIA – The Education Law Center (ELC) announced today that it has filed a federal complaint on behalf of C.T., an 8th-grade honor student who was placed in a shelter on an emergency basis while awaiting foster care placement and who qualifies as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

The complaint asserts that New Castle Area School District, where C.T. was placed in the Krause Youth Shelter, has a policy or practice of denying students placed in that shelter access to its local public schools, despite its clear duty to enroll these students under federal and state law. As a result, C.T., and other children similarly situated, are forced to languish in a shelter school program.

C.T., who has been in the shelter school since the beginning of April, has received homework assignments and tests from his prior school district but was unable to complete them without academic instruction. According to the complaint, the shelter program provides only three hours of education a day and is staffed by a teacher certified in grades K-6 only. ELC also notes that the shelter school is unlicensed and unmonitored by any state or local education agency.

“This is precisely what the McKinney-Vento Act was designed to prevent,” said Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney of the Education Law Center.

“That law requires districts to ensure immediate and equal access to local public schools and expressly prohibits the segregation of students based on their homelessness status. ELC is asking the court to direct the New Castle Area School District to implement its clear duty to treat these students in the same manner as children living in their district with permanent residences.”

In addition to the McKinney-Vento Act, which mandates school stability or immediate enrollment in the local public school for children experiencing homelessness, Pennsylvania state law also ensures that children living in residential settings, including shelters, are entitled to enroll in local public schools where the facilities are located.

“This is not an isolated case. Our offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have handled matters in other school districts where this is happening and we are working to eliminate this illegal practice across the Commonwealth so that students like C.T. do not lose ground and fall behind,” said McInerney.

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The Education Law Center-PA works to ensure that all children in Pennsylvania have access to a quality public education, including children living in poverty, children of color, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, children with disabilities, English language learners, and children experiencing homelessness. For more information, visit www.elc-pa.org or follow @edlawcenterpa on Twitter.

 

CONTACT:

Maura McInerney
Education Law Center – Philadelphia
1315 Walnut Street, Suite 400
Philadelphia, PA 19107
[email protected]
215-346-6906

Nancy A. Hubley
Education Law Center – Pittsburgh
429 Fourth Ave, Suite 702
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
[email protected]
412-258-2120 ext. 350

ELC Applauds Expanded Access to EI Services for Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Homelessness

Oct. 20, 2014 – For years, ELC has worked for expanded access to Early Intervention services for vulnerable children – including the estimated 6,000 Pennsylvania infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years old) experiencing homelessness.  Many of these children suffer significant trauma and neglect – placing them at greater risk for developmental delays.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, trauma and poverty impact infants in unique yet substantial ways – often leading to lower learning capacities, maladaptive behaviors, and sometimes lifelong physical and mental health problems.   Homelessness itself is a significant risk factor.
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Easton Students Return to School; Lawsuit Resolved

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.

 

 

CONTACT:
Brett Schaeffer
Education Law Center
[email protected]
Office: 215-238-6970 ext. 334
Mobile: 215-519-6522

 

 

 

 

New PA Policies to Improve Early Education Access for Students Experiencing Homelessness

May 15, 2013 – New policy guidance issued last week by the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning improves access to early learning opportunities for homeless children under the age of six.

This policy sets new standards for interagency collaboration at state and local levels to identify young children experiencing homelessness across service systems and ensure access to quality early learning programs, such as Head Start and Early Intervention.

“We are so pleased that OCDEL has stepped forward to provide important vision and leadership that will help ensure that young children experiencing homelessness get the supports and services to which they are entitled and desperately need,” said the Education Law Center’s Nancy A. Hubley, Managing Attorney for ELC’s Pittsburgh office.

Hubley works closely with the Bridges Collaborative — a network of early childhood and homeless advocates — to address the lack of education access for these young children.
According to OCDEL, more than 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s homeless children are under the age of six.

“This policy,” Hubley added, “will help ensure that staff of social service agencies, including housing programs and early childhood providers, are aware of which children are to be considered homeless and the legal rights that accompany them.”

OCDEL’s guidelines reiterate the federal requirements for supporting homeless students, as detailed across federal and state laws such as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

The act, which became law in 1987, ensures that “each child of an individual who is homeless and each youth who is homeless have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youth.”

Read the OCDEL guidelines.

 

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The Education Law Center in non-profit legal advocacy organization, dedicated to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to a quality public education.

 

CONTACT:
Brett Schaefer
Education Law Center
Office: 215-238-6970 ext. 334
Mobile: 215-519-6522
[email protected].org

PA Issues New Guidelines to Improve Early Education Access for Homeless Children

 

May 15, 2013  – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

New policy guidance issued last week by the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning improves access to early learning opportunities for homeless children under the age of six.

This policy sets new standards for interagency collaboration at state and local levels to identify young children experiencing homelessness across service systems and ensure access to quality early learning programs, such as Head Start and Early Intervention.

“We are so pleased that OCDEL has stepped forward to provide important vision and leadership that will help ensure that young children experiencing homelessness get the supports and services to which they are entitled and desperately need,” said the Education Law Center’s Nancy A. Hubley, Managing Attorney for ELC’s Pittsburgh office.

Hubley works closely with the Bridges Collaborative — a network of early childhood and homeless advocates — to address the lack of education access for these young children.

According to OCDEL, more than 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s homeless children are under the age of six.

“This policy,” Hubley added, “will help ensure that staff of social service agencies, including housing programs and early childhood providers, are aware of which children are to be considered homeless and the legal rights that accompany them.”

OCDEL’s guidelines reiterate the federal requirements for supporting homeless students, as detailed across federal and state laws such as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

The act, which became law in 1987, ensures that “each child of an individual who is homeless and each youth who is homeless have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youth.”

Read the OCDEL guidelines.

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The Education Law Center is a non-profit legal advocacy organization, dedicated to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to a quality public education.

CONTACT:
Brett Schaefer
Education Law Center
Office: 215-238-6970 ext. 334
Mobile: 215-519-6522
[email protected]