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Youth & Education Rights

“I don’t know what would have happened if it weren’t for having her and the other volunteer lawyers and staff from the Law Center on our side. ..If I can help just one more parent become aware of the law and the services of the Law Center so that they don’t have to go through what I went through, I’m happy to do whatever I can.”
C.H., father of two

When a child becomes homeless, a stable education is more important than ever.

We protect the right of children experiencing homelessness to stay in school and get the support they need to succeed.

Endorsement: The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is a key partner in addressing the multi-faceted issues facing runaway and homeless youth.  Youth homelessness is an enormous issue in the city of Baltimore and yet, there is no dependable research and there are very few resources/services to support this population.
Megan K. Blondin, Executive Director, MANY, Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth & Family Services

One major consequence of homelessness for children is disruption to education. The loss of a home is a traumatic experience, and to cope, children turn to the most stable force in their lives: school.  Continuity of education during homelessness is vital not only for their mental and emotional health in the short-term, but for their future ability to succeed in a competitive job market and break the cycle of poverty.  There is evidence that children with two or more school changes in the previous year, such as homeless children, are 50 percent less likely to graduate high school.  People who don’t graduate high school can expect an economic penalty of nearly $9,000 a year on their lifetime earnings.

All children have the basic human right to access to a quality education that will help them achieve to their highest potential. To ensure stability for homeless children, the federal McKinney-Vento Act gives them the right to:
  • Remain in the same school they attended before becoming homeless, even if they’re temporarily housed in a different district;
  • Receive free transportation to and from school;
  • Receive free school meals; and
  • Access a full range of extracurricular activities.
But too often, these rights are violated.  Many schools and families are unaware of the law’s protections, resulting in many homeless children being denied access to school. The Law Center is a national leader on this issue.  We provide training and technical assistance to schools and advocates to make sure they understand homeless children’s rights, as well as legal support to families.

Through Project LEARN, a cutting-edge pilot program with pro bono partner DLA Piper, the Law Center has trained attorneys from 20 offices across the country to expand our capacity to carry out our critical work.  That means more homeless children in more cities will stay in school and receive the education they need to break the cycle of poverty and achieve their dreams.

Beyond access to education, many homeless youth living on their own face additional barriers to the enjoyment of their basic rights. From runaway and curfew statutes to the inability to sign a rental contract or consent to needed medical procedures, homeless youth struggle to survive on the streets. The Law Center has conducted a survey of laws affecting homeless youth and works with communities to ensure their youth are treated with the dignity they deserve.