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The Education Rights of Homeless Students © Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, 35 Halsey Street, Newark NJ 07102 (93) 642 8100

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Presentation on theme: "The Education Rights of Homeless Students © Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, 35 Halsey Street, Newark NJ 07102 (93) 642 8100"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Education Rights of Homeless Students © Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, 35 Halsey Street, Newark NJ 07102 (93) 642 8100

2 Constitutional Rights The right to a “thorough and efficient education” under the NJ State Constitution The right to equal treatment and equal access under the US and NJ Constitutions

3 Federal & State Laws The federal McKinney Act protects the right of homeless students to an education NJ Administrative Code, Title 6, Chapter 5, NJAC 6:5-1 et seq also protects the rights of homeless students

4 Federal & State Laws Homeless students are entitled to all the rights of students who are not homeless, including: –Bilingual education/ESL –Special education –Vocational education –Gifted education –Extra-curricular and non- academic activities –Non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation/sexual preference

5 Who is “homeless?” A family or child without a fixed, regular and adequate residence: –In a shelter (welfare hotel, congregate shelter, transitional housing) –In an institution providing a temporary residence prior to an intended institutionalization –In a place not designed or typically used by people for regular sleeping accommodations

6 Who is “homeless?” A student is homeless if s/he: –Lives with a parent in a domestic violence shelter –Is a runaway living in a shelter –Is a mother living in a home for adolescent mothers –Is sick or abandoned and living in a hospital but would be released if s/he had a permanent residence –Has been abandoned

7 Who is “homeless?” –Is the child of a homeless family living with relatives or friends out of necessity –Is the child of a migrant family which lacks adequate housing

8 Who is “homeless?” The circumstances under which a family becomes homeless (i.e., eviction) have no bearing on the child’s homeless status

9 Disputes over Eligibility District must immediately notify the County Superintendent County Superintendent decides within 48 hours whether the student qualifies as “homeless” County Superintendent’s decision may be appealed to the Commissioner of Education

10 What happens if a child becomes homeless? The child’s parent, or social worker helping the family, immediately contacts the school district where the child is temporarily residing Ask for the name and phone # of “homeless liaison” Every district must have one

11 Who is a “parent?” Birth parent Adoptive parent Legal guardian Foster parent Surrogate parent Parent acting in place of the parent Person legally responsible for the child’s welfare

12 What happens if a child becomes homeless? Information provided to the homeless liaison: –Child’s name –Age –Grade –School last attended –Address prior to becoming homeless –Current temporary address

13 Role of the District Homeless Liaison Role of the homeless liaison: –Ensure that the child’s “district of residence” is determined –Ensure that a timely “educational placement” is made in accordance with the child’s best interests –Ensure that a homeless child residing in the district is enrolled in and attending school

14 Role of the Homeless Liaison in the District of Temporary Residence Notify the district liaison in the “district of residence” within 24 hours of the need for educational services for the student

15 Role of the Liaison in the “District of Residence” Immediately coordinate procedures to place the homeless child in school, based on the child’s best interests and the state’s “educational placement” rules

16 Other District Homeless Liaison Responsibilities Communicate & cooperate with other school districts Develop systems to ensure that homeless students are enrolled in and attending school

17 District of Residence The district where the student’s parent(s) last resided before becoming homeless, even if the child was not yet enrolled in school at the time the homelessness occurred

18 Determining District of Residence Decide based on information from: –Department of Human Services –Shelter providers –School districts –Involved agencies –Case managers –Parents

19 Timelines for Notification Liaison of the district where a homeless child is temporarily living must contact the liaison of the “district of residence” within 24 hours of learning that the child is homeless

20 Responsibilities of District of Residence Educate the homeless student Determine best educational placement in consultation with parent(s) Pay costs of tuition and transportation when the student attends school in another district Provides transportation when the student attends school in the district of residence while temporarily living in another district

21 District of Residence The district identified as the “district of residence” remains the district of residence as long as the parent(s) of the student remain homeless The liaison of that district must act immediately to enroll the homeless student

22 Disagreements on “District of Residence” Contact the County Superintendents for all the districts involved County Superintendents identify a district of residence County Superintendents may appeal to Assistance Commissioner for the Division of Finance within the Department of Education for a determination if they cannot agree

23 Who is the County Superintendent? Employee of the State Department of Education Charged with monitoring & assuring compliance with school laws for the districts within that county

24 State responsibility The State pays for the student’s education costs for as long as the parent(s) are homeless if: –A district of residence cannot be determined –The student lived outside New Jersey just before becoming homeless

25 No district of residence? Child must be enrolled immediately in: –District in which the child last attended school, or –The district where the child is temporarily residing must enroll the child immediately

26 Determining Educational Placement Decision must be made within 3 school days of learning that the child is homeless Decision is made by superintendent of the district of residence or designee Consultation with parent is required before making a decision on placement

27 Determining Educational Placement Choices for placement: –Continue the student’s education in the school district where s/he last attended school –Enroll the student in the district of residence –Enroll the student in the district where s/he is temporarily living

28 Student’s “Best Interest” Consider: –Where the parent(s) want the child to attend school –Continuity of the child’s education, including consideration of keeping the student in the school s/he has been attending, how long the student has attended that school, how much time is left in the current school year, whether the student’s credits will transfer or be sufficient for graduation, and where the family plans to seek permanent housing

29 Student’s “Best Interest” Student eligibility for special instructional programs such as: –Bilingual –Compensatory –Gifted –Vocational –Special education Distance, travel time, & safety in transporting student from temporary residence to the school

30 Placement Decisions Once a placement decision is made, the child must be placed “immediately” If there is a dispute, the child is not enrolled until the County Superintendent makes a placement decision District must provide written documentation of consultation with parent(s) and notification to parent(s) of right to appeal decision

31 Homeless Students with IEPs Placed in a program consistent with the IEP for up to 30 calendar days Within this 30 days, the district of residence reviews the IEP in an IEP meeting with the family, revises it as appropriate with family consent, and places the student in an appropriate setting consistent with the IEP

32 Disputes over IEPs Any disagreement over contents of IEP or IEP placement are resolved using special education mediation & due process procedures set out in NJAC 6A:14 Requests are sent to Barbara Gantwerk, NJ Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, POB 500, Trenton NJ 08625

33 Student Records The district where the student last attended school must forward all school & health records to the new district A homeless student may NOT be excluded from school for lack of academic records

34 Dispute Resolution “Chain of command:” –District liaisons –County Superintendent (must resolve dispute or issue a decision within 48 hours) –Appeal to the Commissioner of Education by filing an appeal with the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes County Superintendent’s decision stands during the appeal process unless a “stay” is granted by the Commissioner of Education

35 Who may appeal liaison decisions? Parent(s) Involved school district official Involved agency Case manager Shelter provider

36 Mediation Parent(s) may request mediation to resolve disagreements with the County Superintendent on the appropriate educational placement Write, fax, or phone the Homeless Children & Youth Program, Office of Specialized Populations, POB 500, NJDOE, Trenton NJ 08625, 609-633-9715

37 Mediation Request Identify the issues in dispute Identify the result(s) the parent(s) want

38 Mediation Process Mediation conference is held within 5 days of the request Mediation is held at a time & place reasonably convenient for everyone involved

39 Mediation Process Is informal Involves all parties: –Parent(s) –District of residence –County superintendent –Any other school district involved

40 Role of Mediator Not judgmental Help the parties figure out why they disagree Help identify options that could resolve the dispute

41 Outcome of Mediation If agreement is reached, the conclusion is written down, signed by each party, & forwarded to county superintendent for appropriate action

42 Outcome of Mediation If agreement is not reached, the parent(s) contacts the Homeless Children & Youth Program again That office assists the parent(s) to file an appeal to the State Commissioner of Education

43 Interim Placement While a request for mediation or an appeal to the Commissioner is pending, the child has the right to be immediately placed in the school chosen by the County Superintendent until the dispute is resolved

44 Who pays tuition costs? District of residence pays all tuition costs no matter where the homeless child is living & going to school, unless the State has assumed responsibility

45 Who pays for transportation? District of residence always pays for transportation If the child is enrolled in school outside the district of residence, the actual transportation is provided by the district where the child is enrolled If the State pays tuition, district where child is enrolled provides transportation

46 Transportation Districts must: –Explore alternatives –Choose the most economical and safest mode of transportation –Abide by NJAC 6:21 (state transportation regulations)

47 Who monitors compliance? New Jersey Department of Education monitors districts & is required to ensure their compliance with state & federal laws protecting the rights of homeless students

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