We realize that learners who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence should not be a sufficient reason to separate learners from the school learning environment. AOS 98 strives to ensure that challenged learners are identified and provided access to the same free and appropriate public education provided to all learners in the school system. In accordance with federal and state law and regulations, AOS 98 shall provide challenged learners access to the instructional programming that supports achievement of the content standards of Maine's system of Learning Results and to other services for which they are eligible. Learners shall not be segregated into a separate school or program based on their status, nor shall they be stigmatized in any way.
The federal law governing homeless learners is the McKinney-Vento Bill. Under this bill, homeless learners are guaranteed the right to a free, appropriate, public education. When learners become McKinney-Vento eligible, they can remain enrolled in the schools they have been attending, although they might no longer meet residency requirements. McKinney-Vento also guarantees learners the right to enroll in a public school even if they lack the typically required documents and immunizations. In addition, McKinney-Vento eligible learners are guaranteed the transportation they need to attend school.
According to McKinney-Vento, “homeless” can be defined as an individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including children and youth:
- Sharing housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship
- Living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate housing
- Living in emergency or transitional housing
- Abandoned in hospitals
- Awaiting foster care
- Having a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, regular sleeping accommodations
- Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations
- Migratory students meeting the descriptions above
DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEDURE FOR HOMELESS STUDENTS AND FAMILIES
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (PL107-110, Section 722) expands the responsibility of Maine Department of Education and LEA’s to ensure educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. All Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) must ensure coordination of their efforts on behalf of homeless children and youth with the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvement Act, Title X, Part C and DOE directives. Part of that coordination is to implement procedures for the prompt resolution of disputes regarding school selection and enrollment for homeless children and youth.
“School of selection” as the school of origin, or the school of residence
“School of origin” as the school the child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled
“Enrollment” as attending classes and participating fully in school activities. Parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth must be able to initiate the dispute resolution process either in writing or orally directly at the selected school site.
PLEASE NOTE: Parents/Guardians, can expect a written response from the AOS 98 McKinney-Vento Coordinator, in ten (10) working days, explaining to them their rights in accordance with the resolution process outlined below should they dispute the school selection and enrollment for homeless children and youth.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS
- If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment, the child/youth must be immediately enrolled in the school in which he/she is seeking enrollment, pending resolution of the dispute. The enrollment happens at the district superintendent’s office through the administrative assistant who notifies the homeless liaison upon enrollment.
- The homeless liaison meets with the learner, parent, and/or guardian to carry out the dispute resolution process as expeditiously (normally five (5) working days maximum) as possible. This also happens for unaccompanied youth. This first meeting occurs within the first week of enrollment in school.
- During the process, the school district discusses considerations that led to the placement decision which may include the ability of the school district to provide continuity in educational programs, the need of the homeless learner for special instructional program, the amount of time and arrangements required to transport the student to the original school district, the age of the homeless student and the school placement of siblings, and the time remaining until the end of the semester or the end of the school year.
- A written explanation of the school’s decision regarding school selection or enrollment will be provided if a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth disputes such a school selection or enrollment decision, including the right to appeal. The written explanation shall be complete, as brief as possible, simply stated, and provided in easy to understand language.
- If the dispute remains unresolved at the district level or is appealed, then the district McKinney-Vento Coordinator shall forward all written documentation and related paperwork to the Truancy, Dropout, Alternative Education, and McKinney-Vento State Coordinator. Upon the review of the LEA and parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth information, the McKinney-Vento State Coordinator shall notify the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth of the final school selection or enrollment decision within twenty (20) working days of receipt of materials. You may reach the Maine Department of Education McKinney-Vento State Coordinator, Gayle Erdheim, by phone at 207-624-6637 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other information to know as a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth:
- You can provide written or oral documentation to support your positions about school selection or enrollment.
- You can seek assistance of social services, advocates, lawyers, and/or service providers in the dispute process
- You will receive documentation for your records of the dispute form and the outcome of the dispute.
The AOS 98 McKinney-Vento Coordinator is:
Maine's Department of Education
Mc Kinney-Vento State Coordinator
Below are links where you get more information about AOS 98's policies, as well as some information about Maine's and national organizational support for homeless learners