Education Rights of Homeless Students

 

It takes special tutors to help homeless students achieve academically. Students may be dealing with anger and fear while trying to learn.

As the number of homeless youth in this country continues to increase, it is imperative we do our part to make sure they receive services that address their basic needs. In addition to food, clothing, and shelter, all children have the right to a free and decent public education.

Understanding McKinney-Vento

The McKinney-Vento Act guarantees homeless children specific education rights. These rights are intended to make it easier for homeless students to access free educational services through the nearest public school system. The Act states they have the right to:

* Stay in the same school regardless of where they live

* Transportation to get to school

* Enroll in school without required records

* Appeal school or district decisions that affect them

By eliminating as many barriers as possible, it should be relatively simple for homeless students to attend school and participate in activities. Of course, that is only true in theory.

In Addition to Rights

Having the right to do something does not mean it is actually possible to do. For this reason, McKinney-Vento provides additional resources to schools so they can help homeless students take advantage of their educational rights. Each school with homeless students enrolled is required to have a liaison that works to identify community resources to help them. One such resource is qualified tutoring services with a track record of successfully improving educational outcomes of homeless students.

Accessing Educational Resources

Matching homeless students to the right tutor is critical. The tutor needs to be compassionate and understanding. It is not uncommon for homeless students to have poor social skills and act out negatively to express their anger and fear over their situation. For many students, their tutor provides a sense of security that is much needed. Because of the risks inherent in their living situation, homeless students are frequently victims of violence and develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can make individual tutoring challenging. Students may feel safer in a small group setting.

Tutoring homeless students requires more than academic knowledge. Tutors need to know how to interact with students who move frequently or possibly live in an abandoned building. Student priorities generally will not be the same as tutor priorities. However, with consistent encouragement, tutors can make a positive difference in the lives of homeless students.