The McKinney-Vento Act (42 U.S.C. § 11431 et seq.) is a federal law that addresses the needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness. The law defines homeless to include the following temporary living situations due to hardship:
- Living with a friend, relative or other person
- Hotel or motel
- Shelter or transitional housing
- Car, park or other public place
- Campground or inadequate home
- Youth living on their own, runaway youth or youth kicked out
The McKinney-Vento Act addresses educational challenges created by homelessness and guarantees students the right to enroll, attend, and succeed in school. The law places the responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of students experiencing homelessness on states and school districts (NCHE, 2014).
As a requirement of the federal law, all public school districts in the United States must appoint a liaison that will ensure compliance with the federal law. In Wake County Public Schools, the McKinney-Vento program includes a District Liaison, Student Information Data Manager and school liaisons.
The federal legislation is also included in Wake County Public School System's school board policies: 6200R&P, 6201, 6201R&P, 7105 and 7160.
Why is this important?
Students experiencing homelessness may change schools frequently. Learning is impacted as students must adjust to new environments, new curricula, and new teachers and classmates, while still learning the same information other students are expected to master. The loss of a home can be traumatic, leaving children and youth with tumultuous feelings that can impact their social and intellectual wellbeing. Limited access to food, medical care, and basic school supplies can also impact performance in the classroom (NCHE, 2014).
When working with families in transition, the term 'homeless' can be received as a negative term. In an effort to be more sensitive to the trauma and crisis involved in being displaced, school districts are using the term 'in transition' when speaking to or about families that meet eligibility requirements for McKinney-Vento. The word 'homeless' may be used throughout this site when quoting from materials that were created and distributed prior to the new terminology.