After Hurricane Harvey: Supporting Displaced Texas Students

Hurricane Harvey has affected tens of thousands of Texas students and their families. Federal and state disaster relief agencies, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Homeless Education Office (THEO) at the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas, and the Region 10 Education Service Center are all working together to provide students and families with stability and access to school during this time of crisis.

“The McKinney-Vento Act protects students who are displaced due to a natural disaster,” said Jeanne Stamp, THEO director. “Being back in the classroom may help provide these students with much-needed stability, friendship, and mentoring during this crisis.”

The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures that students and families in homeless situations—including those displaced by Hurricane Harvey—have many rights regarding enrollment in school. Students can enroll in the school district in which they are currently living or in an adjoining district if families have the means to take their children to that district. Students may also remain in the district from which they were displaced if the schools are operational.

The McKinney-Vento Act requires that every local education agency (LEA) designate a Homeless Liaison to identify and support students experiencing homelessness. LEA Homeless Liaisons should be included in local disaster relief efforts and LEA planning concerning Hurricane Harvey. For a list of local liaisons visit: http://www.theotx.org/liaison-directory.

Emergency shelter staff will help families obtain enrollment information for their children. Families may also access THEO’s homeless liaison directory to get contact information for the homeless liaison at their local school district.

Additional information may be found on the THEO website or by calling THEO’s assistance hotline at 1-800-446-3142.

All students who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey may be entitled to:

  • Immediate Enrollment — The McKinney-Vento Act entitles students to enroll immediately in the public school that serves the attendance area where the student is staying temporarily. Additionally, state law, Educ. Code § 25.001(b)(5), allows a homeless student to enroll in any school district in Texas regardless of where they are staying. Families and students experiencing the trauma of a disaster may need some additional time and guidance to assess their circumstances so that they can make an informed school selection. School personnel can help parents and youth make a student-centered, best interest determination regarding school selectionby using this helpful tool.
  • Identification of Students in Homeless Situations — By federal law, every school district must identify students living in homeless situations. Every school district should have a means of identifying the living situation of all students entering and/or returning to their schools, including students displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
  • School Selection and Transportation for Homeless Students — The McKinney-Vento federal law allows families and students living in homeless situations to remain in the school of origin (where the student attended when he/she became homeless or the last school he/she attended) or enroll in the local school where the student is temporarily staying. School districts must provide transportation to the school of origin. Transportation to the attendance zone campus is based on comparable services to other students attending that campus.
  • Enrollment in any School District — Texas state law allows students identified as homeless to enroll in any Texas district. In this case, the district selects the campus and there is no obligation on the part of the district to provide transportation.
  • Missing Records — Federal law requires that students must be enrolled without delay and without the usual required documents, including immunizations records, previous school records, proof of residency, and proof of legal guardianship. In most instances, these records may be obtained by the current school from the previously attended school district.
  • Texas Student Data System PEIMS (Public Education Information Management System) Crisis Code — All students enrolling in a school district or charter school as a result of being displaced by Hurricane Harvey should be reported with a ‘Crisis Code’ of 05.
  • Texas Records Exchange (TREx) System — A local education agency (LEA) enrolling displaced Hurricane Harvey students should submit a TREx records request to the LEA where the student previously attended or should have been enrolled. The TREx records request should be submitted as soon as possible regardless of the operational status of the LEA. Many impacted LEAs still have access to their electronic student information data.
  • Free Meals — All homeless students must receive free school meals without delay and are categorically eligible for nutrition benefits. These students are not required to complete income verification paperwork.
  • Referral to Services – Students must have their needs assessed and be referred to appropriate supports and services, including health, mental health, housing, and other community resources.

Additional information on disaster relief efforts and comprehensive listings of disaster assistance may be found on the THEO website under Disaster Response and under the News section under Local, State, and Federal Resources to Assist in Dealing with Hurricane Harvey.