Students in transition have the right to enroll in school immediately, even if lacking documentation normally required for enrollment, such as previous school records, medical or immunization records, proof of residency, birth certificate, proof of guardianship, or other documents.
The terms “enroll” and “enrollment” include attending classes and participating fully in school activities.
If a student does not have immunizations or medical records, the school liaison must assist in obtaining the records after immediate enrollment. The student must be enrolled in school in the interim. If there are no school records, the enrolling school must contact the student’s previous school to obtain school records after immediate enrollment.
Children and youth in transition often do not have the documents ordinarily required for school enrollment. However, school may be the only opportunity for these children and youth to benefit from a stable environment, uninterrupted adult attention, peer relations, academic stimulation, and reliable meals. Enrolling children and youth in transition in school immediately provides them with needed stability and avoids disconnecting them from school for days or weeks while documents are gathered.
Enrolling Without A Legal Guardian
Children or youth in transition and enrolling in a school may not be living with their parents or legal guardians. Frequently, these students are sent to live temporarily with friends or relatives. In other situations, youth have been forced to leave home due to abusive environments or are on their own for other reasons.
If a student may be or is eligible for McKinney-Vento services, no proof of guardianship is required. Lack of a legal guardian or guardianship documents cannot delay or prevent the enrollment of an unaccompanied youth. 42 U.S.C. §§11432(g)(3)(C), (g)(1)(H)(iv), (g)(1)(F)(ii).
Therefore, schools may not condition school enrollment upon the receipt of proof of legal guardianship by caregivers of homeless, unaccompanied youth; nor may they require caregivers to become legal guardians within a certain period of time after the child enrolls in school. The decision to seek legal guardianship is a serious decision that affects significantly the legal rights of the parent and caregiver well beyond the education arena. In addition, it is important to note that the absence of an available caregiver must not impede enrollment. Unaccompanied, homeless youth who are on their own completely must be enrolled in school immediately.
The McKinney-Vento Act provisions requiring immediate enrollment are even more important in a case of child abduction. If there is legitimate cause for concern, the school should enroll immediately and contact security or the police. The safest place for the student is school.