I am an educator…

Who is committed to ensuring all students succeed no matter what obstacles he or she faces. My goal is to effectively engage my students in his or her learning once some critical basic needs are met with the partnership and support of our school and community. I will also reach out to students’ families with ideas and strategies they can use to support their students.

  1. How do I get trained/refreshed on the homeless liaison’s role and guidance on how to apply the McKinney-Vento Act?
  2. Do Early Childhood students qualify in the same way as K-12 students?
  3. How do I safely transfer records for a family that is fleeing domestic violence?
  4. How do I get additional funds to address the needs in our school community?
  5. How long is a homeless student eligible for services?
  6. If a student doesn’t have a guardian, who signs for them?
  7. Ways to connect with other Liaisons/Educators.
  8. How do I get a student/family into housing services?
  9. How do I access/plan for Title I funds? What are appropriate uses of Title I for McKinney-Vento eligible students?
  10. I am a transportation director – where do I look for guidance regarding what my district must do to comply with the McKinney-Vento Act as it relates to transportation?
  11. I am a Bus Driver – what do I do if I suspect a student is homeless?
  12. I work in the School Office what do I do if a family/student tells me they are homeless?
  13. Are there sample forms I can access that are used by other Liaisons in the state?

1. How do I get trained/refreshed on the homeless liaison’s role and guidance on how to apply the McKinney-Vento Act?
The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is committed to the success of homeless liaisons. For webinars and training materials, please go to OSPI Training Materials and Webinars. The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) is an excellent source for free webinars, training materials, and briefs on how to best serve homeless students under McKinney-Vento. Another resource is your District’s homeless liaison. Attend networking meetings with other Homeless Liaisons to share ideas and best practices. (For more information, contact Kim Beeson at PSESD, kbeeson@psesd.org)

2. Do Early Childhood students qualify in the same way as K-12 students?
In school districts that offer pre-k services, preschoolers are covered under the McKinney-Vento Act in the same manner that k-12 students are. The services covered include the same services any permanently housed student has access to. In other words, if the service is offered to all students, the school district must give the same level of service to homeless students and remove any barriers to that service that may exist. To learn more, please review the Preschool and Early Childhood resources on NCHE.

3. How do I safely transfer records for a family that is fleeing domestic violence?
As many as ten million children and adolescents witness violence between their caregivers each year. Families fleeing domestic violence are not likely to arrange for school records to be transferred, due in part to fear of the perpetrator having a way to track them to their new site.

The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of education records. It requires that schools receive written permission from parents before they release any information from a child’s records. Under certain circumstances, FERPA does allow schools to release information without a parent’s permission to other parties, including the student’s other parent (unless there is restraining order or parental rights have been suspended).* A school can also release basic directory information without a parent’s permission, but a parent can request that this directory information not be released.

If safety issues are involved it is important that schools work with agencies in the community that provide services to domestic violence survivors.

* For a list of individuals and groups that do not need a parent’s written permission to review a student’s educational records, The National Center for Homeless Education has a great brief on how to help support homeless families fleeing domestic violence: Domestic Violence, Homelessness, and Children’s Education. You can also review additional resources on this topic at NCHE here. You can also find more information on FERPA at the Department of Education’s website.

4. How do I get additional funds to address the needs in our school community?
Attracting support is about being creative and resourceful. Check in with district administrators about effective partners/donors in your community – be it the faith community, social services, parent organizations, local service clubs, and the business community. Then consider who to approach and for what needs. The clearer you are about what resource gaps your students have, the more effective your “ask” will be. Consider foundations such as InvestED, Donors Choose, and your local Rotary club where you can describe what you need, and donors will see your request for help.

Also be aware that Title I funds can be used to supplement certain educational activities. However, before Title I funds can be used District’s should consider other resources available through other means. For questions about how Title I funds may be used to support Homeless Students please see NCHE’s brief Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness under Title I, Part A.

5. How long is a homeless student eligible for services?
Once a student qualifies as eligible under McKinney-Vento, they remain eligible for services throughout the duration of the student’s homelessness. If a student becomes permanently housed during the school year, they have the right to remain in the school of origin until the end of the school year. School districts are encouraged to consider using Title I funds, as appropriate, to serve formerly homeless students and minimize any disruption in school continuity. For more information, please see NCHE’s brief Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness under Title I, Part A.

6. If a student doesn’t have a guardian, who signs for them?
A student cannot be denied enrollment or access to comparable activities/services due to the lack of a legal guardian or their signature. An affidavit signed by an adult willing to act in loco parentis (in the place of the parent) or creating a caregiver authorization form are recommendations to consider. For more information, please see the NCHE brief When Legal Guardians are not Present: Enrolling Students on their Own and NCHE’s Local Homeless Liaisons Toolkit.

7. Ways to connect with other Liaisons/Educators.
The Washington State Office of Public Education (OSPI) has a dedicated Homeless Coordinator Melinda Dyer, who is available to address the professional development and technical assistance needs of school district Homeless Liaisons. Melinda Dyer can be contacted at (360) 725-6050, melinda.dyer@k12.wa.us.

In the Puget Sound Educational Service District region, the Prevention Center convenes networking meetings for Homeless Liaisons and Transportation staff involved in helping their homeless students. For King County, contact Kim Beeson kbeeson@psesd.org; for Pierce County, contact Wendi Gilreath, wgilreath@psesd.org.

8. How do I get a student/family into housing services?
The homeless liaison’s role is to give the family contact information for resources in the community so that they can locate housing. The Washington Information Network (WIN) is a clearinghouse for many resources in the community. To reach the WIN dial 211. If you would like to know the number of your regional call center please visit the 211 contact website. If the family or student is unable to call, you may call on their behalf. Make sure you know the needs of your homeless family/student before you call as to connect them to the resources that most fit their needs.

9. How do I access/plan for Title I funds? What are appropriate uses of Title I for McKinney-Vento eligible students?
OSPI has produced a valuable webinar McKinney-Vento and Title I Part A that outlines the law, provides an overview of homeless liaison duties, and explains Title 1 uses – including best practices and how to create a set aside formula. School Districts are required to set aside a portion of Title 1 funds for homeless students who are not in Title I schools. These funds can also be used for services that are not ordinarily provided to other Title I students and that are not available from other sources. For more information, please see NCHE’s brief Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness under Title I, Part A.

10. I am a transportation director – where do I look for guidance regarding what my district must do to comply with the McKinney-Vento Act as it relates to transportation?
Local Education Agencies (LEAs) must provide students experiencing homelessness with transportation to and from their school of origin, at a parent or guardian’s request. For an unaccompanied youth, the request would be from the LEA’s Homeless Liaison. For a complete FAQ on transportation issues, please visit NCHE’s Transportation section, which has a number of resources about how to best provide transportation to students experiencing homelessness.

11. I am a Bus Driver – what do I do if I suspect a student is homeless?
You are the person who typically sees the students first thing in the morning. You recognize their personalities and behaviors on your bus. If you believe you are seeing a marked difference in a child’s hygiene, clothing or demeanor and suspect homelessness, or you overhear a student say they are living in a shelter, car, with friends or family, please contact your school district’s homeless liaison. If you do not know who he/she is, please refer to OSPI’s list of all homeless liaisons here. If you are in the Puget Sound Region you may click on School Contact Information to learn about who to contact. Your homeless liaison is trained on how to reach out to a family in crisis.

12. I work in the School Office what do I do if a family/student tells me they are homeless?
Office staff have a great deal of contact with parents and students. If you are told by a student/parent that they are living in any of the following situations, they are considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act and you need to let your homeless liaison know about their situation. You may also give the parents/youth the contact information for the Homeless Liaison.

  • Doubled up with family or friends
  • Couch surfing
  • Sleeping in their car or other substandard sleeping area
  • Transitional housing
  • Shelter
  • Having run away or been kicked out of their home

If you suspect a student is homeless, please report your suspicions to your school district’s Homeless Liaison. A link to all the homeless liaisons can be found on OSPI’s website here. If you are in the Puget Sound Region you may use the School Contact Information tab to find the name and contact information of additional staff who can provide assistance. Your Homeless Liaison is trained on how to reach out to a family in crisis and will contact the family to assess their needs.

13. Are there sample forms I can access that are used by other Liaisons in the state?
Forms and materials can be found on the OSPI and NACEHY websites and are worth reviewing as they are vetted to assure accuracy. In King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, Liaisons have developed a peer support network and have shared a number of forms which are available as samples for your use.

These include:

If you would like to submit a sample form that has worked well in your district and complies with OSPI’s comprehensive performance review measures please submit the form with an explanation of how the form is used to info@waseh.org.

Other Resources:

Potential Warning Signs of Homelessness – list of potential signs that a student may be Homeless compiled by the National Center on Homeless Education.

Resources for School Personnel – NCHE has compiled a list of helpful briefs and resources to help provide an overview of Homeless Education Issues to Educators,School Administrators, and other School Staff.