Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, schools must identify children and youth in homeless situations and provide appropriate services. One such service is immediate enrollment in school, even when students lack paperwork normally required for enrollment, such as school records, proof of guardianship, a birth certificate, immunization or other health records, and proof of residence. In complying with the immediate enrollment mandate, some school districts may be concerned that families or youth may claim falsely to be homeless in order to gain access to services for which they are not eligible or to gain enrollment in a school outside of their local attendance area.
Due to the stigma associated with homelessness, the vast majority of students seeking eligibility for services under McKinney-Vento does so in good faith and with good reason. If a question arises about a student’s eligibility, schools may wish to confirm the details of the student’s living situation. All such efforts must be grounded in sensitivity and respect, keeping the academic well-being and best interest of the student in the forefront. Using invasive or threatening techniques to confirm a student’s eligibility can humiliate families and youth and may place an already tenuous temporary living arrangement in jeopardy. This may destabilize the family or youth further and may create a barrier to the student’s enrollment, thereby violating the McKinney-Vento Act. Additionally, employing these techniques may violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).