• Enrollment of Homeless Students and School Records

    The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act requires that school districts immediately enroll homeless student in school, even if they do not have the documents usually required for enrollment, such as school records, medical records or proof of residency. This advisory is intended to provide guidance to school officials as they begin to implement the new enrollment requirement:

    • Homeless students have a right to either remain in their school of origin or to attend school where they are temporarily residing;

    • Students who choose to remain in their school of origin have the right to remain there until the end of the school year in which they get permanent housing;

    • Students who chose to enroll in school where they are temporarily residing must be enrolled immediately, even if they do not bring the records usually required for enrollment with them; and

    • If a homeless student arrives without records, the school district's designated Homeless Education Liaison must assist the family and contact the previously attended school system to obtain the required records.

    Families and youth experiencing homelessness often do not bring the documents ordinarily required for school enrollment with them. The purpose of this new requirement to enroll immediately homeless students in school is to provide educational stability and avoid separation from school for days or weeks while documents are located.

    The Department is aware that this new requirement may constitute a departure with respect to school districts' enrollment policies. The immunization statute, G.L. c. 76§ 15, generally requires students to provide proof of immunization prior to enrollment. Since McKinney-Vento is a federal law, its requirements override the state immunization law. However, it should be noted that the immunization law allows, in the absence of a Department of Health declared epidemic or emergency, the enrollment of students who have not been immunized if they have religious objections to immunization. Moreover, the Department has consulted with the Department of Public Health (DPH) regarding this issue and DPH agrees that, in the absence of an emergency or epidemic of disease, the health risk of enrolling homeless students prior to receiving proof of immunization is minimal.

    If a homeless child or youth arrives lacking immunizations or immunization or medical records, refer the parent/guardian to the district's Homeless Education Liaison, who has the responsibility to obtain relevant academic records, immunizations or immunization or medical records and to ensure that homeless students are attending school while the records are obtained.