Homeless Students Rights



  1. What is the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act?

    The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act protects the educational rights of students who are homeless. Those include the right to:
    • choose between attending the school of origin (i.e., the school that the child attended before becoming homeless) or attending the school in the area where the child temporarily lives;
    • transportation to and from the school of origin;
    • immediate school enrollment, even when the student is missing documents (immunizations, transcripts, proof of address, birth certifi cate, etc.);
    • free school meals;
    • comparable services to those offered other students in the school.

  2. Who is covered by McKinney-Vento?

    McKinney-Vento defi nes a homeless child or youth as someone who does not have a regular, permanent and suffi cient nighttime residence. This includes children who are living in shelters, hotels, camp grounds, cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, or other similar settings. It also includes children who are doubled-up in housing with friends or relatives, children who are homeless and not living with a parent or guardian, and children who are “awaiting foster care placement.”

  3. What does “awaiting foster care placement” mean?

    In New York City, when the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) removes a child from his or her home on an emergency basis and the agency has not yet found a foster home or other placement for that child, the child is temporarily housed at the ACS Children’s Center in Manhattan. Any child who is staying at the Children’s Center while ACS is looking for a placement is covered under the McKinney-Vento Act, and should receive all the rights and protections included in the Act, including the right to continue at his or her school and to receive free transportation. Children in other temporary foster care placements, such as respite foster homes, maternity shelters, or temporary foster homes pending exploration of kinship resources or approval of an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children, may also be protected under the McKinney-Vento Act.


  4. What if my child has special needs?

    Homeless children with disabilities have the same rights as other students. If they wish to continue attending their school of origin, they may do so, and they are entitled to transportation, as described below. If they wish to transfer to the school in their current location, the NYC Department of Education’s Offi ce of Student Enrollment or Committee on Special Education will help fi nd a new school where the child will get the special education services he/she needs.

  5. Where can I get help?

    Each borough has several Liaisons for Students in Temporary Housing who are available to help answer questions and fi x problems. Click here for a list of Liaisons.
  6. What if there is a disagreement about where the child should attend school?

    If there is a disagreement about where a child should be enrolled, the child must be immediately enrolled in the school in which he/she wants to enroll, until the dispute is resolved. The parent must be given a written explanation of the school’s enrollment decision. The parent has the right to appeal the decision. The Liaison for Students in Temporary Housing can assist with the appeal.

  7. How can a parent appeal a student placement?

    The parent will be referred to the Liaison, who will assist the parent with fi ling an appeal to the State Education Department within 30 days of the initial decision regarding school placement. The Liaison will provide the parent with a copy of the written procedure for appealing, assist the parent in completing the petition, make necessary copies of appeals papers, and transmit the appeal to the State Education Department. Transportation to the student’s selected school of enrollment will be provided until the dispute is resolved.

  8. How will my child be transported if I choose to keep him in his original school?

    All homeless students who choose to stay in their original school are eligible for free transportation. The NYC Department of Education provides different kinds of transportation depending on the student’s age:
    • Homeless preschool students and their parents are entitled to a free Metrocard from the Department of Education.
    • Homeless students in grades K-6 must be provided with yellow bus service as long as a bus route exists. If yellow bus service is not available, homeless students and their parents are entitled to a free Metrocard from the Department of Education.
    • Homeless students in grades 7-12 are entitled to a free Metrocard from the Department of Education.
    • Parents of children in preschoolgrade 6 are entitled to Metrocards to accompany their children to and from school.
  9. Where can I get more information?

    The New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS) can provide more information and help. They operate a website (www.nysteachs.org) and a tollfree hotline (1-800-388-2014).

(January 12, 2012)