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School Selection and Best Interest

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NCHE Resources

Guiding the Discussion on School Selection
This brief, part of NCHE's Best Practices in Homeless Education series, identifies the key provisions of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act dealing with the homeless student's right to attend either the school of origin or the local attendance area school. The brief includes a helpful checklist to use when approaching the school selection decision.
Download Guiding the Discussion on School Selection.

School Selection
This brief identifies the key provisions of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act dealing with school selection and offers strategies for implementation.
Download School Selection.

School Selection for Students in Out-of-Home Care
This brief, co-authored by the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education and the National Center for Homeless Education, provides a framework for local homeless education liaisons, educators, child welfare caseworkers, and other child welfare advocates for assessing best interest when selecting a school for students in out-of-home care. While the brief focuses on students "awaiting foster care placement" under the McKinney-Vento Act, it provides information relevant to school selection and school stability for all children and youth in out-of-home care.
Download School Selection for Students in Out-of-Home Care.

Best Interest under the McKinney-Vento Act

The Law

The concept of best interest appears in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in relation to a student's school selection options, which include the school of origin and the local attendance area school.

The law states the following:

(B) SCHOOL STABILITY.-In determining the best interest of the child or youth under subparagraph (A), the local educational agency shall-

(i) presume that keeping the child or youth in the school of origin is in the child's or youth's best interest, except when doing so is contrary to the request of the child's or youth's parent or guardian, or (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth;

(ii) consider student-centered factors related to the child's or youth's best interest, including factors related to the impact of mobility on achievement, education, health, and safety of homeless children and youth, giving priority to the request of the child's or youth's parent or guardian or (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth;

(iii) if, after conducting the best interest determination based on consideration of the presumption in clause (i) and the student-centered factors in clause (ii), the local educational agency determines that it is not in the child's or youth's best interest to attend the school of origin or the school requested by the parent or guardian, or (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth, provide the child's or youth's parent or guardian or the unaccompanied youth with a written explanation of the reasons for its determination, in a manner and form understandable to such parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth, including information regarding the right to appeal under subparagraph (E); and

(iv) in the case of an unaccompanied youth, ensure that the local educational agency liaison designated under paragraph (1)(J)(ii) assists in placement or enrollment decisions under this subparagraph, gives priority to the views of such unaccompanied youth, and provides notice to such youth of the right to appeal under subparagraph (E).

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, (Pub. L. No. 114-95, § 9102(5), 129 Stat. 2129).


Non-Regulatory Guidance

I-3. How does an LEA determine the child's or youth's "best interest"?
In determining a child's or youth's best interest, an LEA must presume that keeping the homeless child or youth in the school of origin is in the child's or youth's best interest, except when doing so is contrary to the request of the child's or youth's parent or guardian, or in the case of an unaccompanied youth, the youth. (Section 722(g)(3)(B)(i)). When determininga child's or youth's best interest, an LEA must consider student-centered factors, including factors related to the impact of mobility on achievement, education, health, and safety of homeless children and youths, giving priority to the request of the child's or youth's parent or guardian or (in the case of an unaccompanied youth) the youth. (Section 722(g)(3)(B)(ii)). We encourage an LEA to also consider the school placement of siblings when making this determination.

Education for Homeless Children and Youth Non-Regulatory Guidance (updated March 2017)

Definitions

School of Origin
(i) IN GENERAL.-The term school of origin means the school that a child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled, including a preschool.
(ii) RECEIVING SCHOOL.-When the child or youth completes the final grade level served by the school of origin, as described in clause (i), the term 'school of origin' shall include the designated receiving school at the next grade level for all feeder schools.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, (Pub. L. No. 114-95, § 9102(5), 129 Stat. 2131).

Local Attendance Area School
A ny public school that nonhomeless students who live in the attendance area in which the child or youth is actually living are eligible to attend

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, (Pub. L. No. 114-95, § 9102(5), 129 Stat. 2129).


Sample Forms, Materials, and Policies

Cobb County School District (Atlanta, GA): Administrative Forms
See Section J of Cobb County School District's Board Policies and Administrative Rules for a variety of forms related to enrolling and educating children and youth experiencing homelessness, including:
  • Information on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
  • Procedure for Free Lunch
  • Procedure For Transportation to School of Origin
  • School of Origin Request
  • Student Residency Statement
  • Written Notification Form
    Forms are available in multiple languages, including English, Arabic, Portuguese, and Spanish.
    Visit the webpage. (See Section J).

  • SB 445 Pupil Instruction and Services: Homeless and Foster Children (CA state law)
    This 2015 California law extends school of origin rights to homeless students in high school through graduation, even if the student becomes permanently housed.
    View the California: SB 445 law.
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    The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) is the U.S. Department of Education's technical assistance center for the federal Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Program. NCHE is housed at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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