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A new report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty explains how the same federal law that keeps homeless young people in school extends to families who find themselves without a stable home following an event like a hurricane or tornado.
"The Homeless Education Advocacy Manual: Disaster Edition" (PDF, 1961KB) includes information about the McKinney-Vento Act that may already be familiar to runaway and homeless youth providers. Young people age 21 or younger who don’t have a “fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence,” for example, can receive free transportation to continue attending their current school. Youth who need to enroll in a new school don't have to wait for proof of immunization or other documents usually required before the first day of class.
The manual highlights specific outcomes that may arise after a natural disaster, and how McKinney-Vento steps in to help. For example:
Families displaced from their homes may be asked to provide periodic updates on their living situation, but they are protected by McKinney-Vento as long as they fit the definition of homelessness.
Young people can establish a new “school of origin” if their original school was destroyed or if they were forced to move to another state due to destruction.
Families and youth advocates should emphasize how switching schools may be extra upsetting to youth recovering from disaster-related traumas like losing a loved one or leaving a pet behind.
Although McKinney-Vento allows young people to enroll in school without delay if they don’t have the appropriate paperwork, families should look out for announcements that might be useful when talking to school administrators. Following Hurricane Katrina, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a memo reminding schools that it was generally unnecessary to repeat vaccinations for children displaced by the storm.