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    Students Experiencing Homelessness in LAUSD and the McKinney-Vento Act

    Homelessness Policy Research Institute

    Year: 2020

    Students experiencing homelessness, defined as students who lack a fixed and adequate nighttime residence, are a growing population who face considerable barriers to receiving a quality education. Homeless students include students living on the street and those housed in motels, shelters, cars, or any space not intended for human habitation. This population also includes those living in other people’s homes (commonly referred to as being “doubled up”). In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) alone, the number of homeless students has increased by 11%, from 15,665 students in 2017-2018 to a new high of 17,494 students in 2019 (Swaak, 2019).

    Federal law, specifically the McKinney-Vento Act (MV), aims to protect students experiencing homelessness. The law codifies student homelessness and requires specific interventions, including establishing a homelessness liaison in each school district, providing free transportation for displaced students to their original school, and loosening school registration requirements (i.e., immunizations, proof of residence) for youth experiencing homelessness. Despite these protections, many districts, including LAUSD, face barriers to compliance, principally due to the lack of funds allocated specifically for homeless students. According to a state audit conducted in 2019, students who qualify for MV services are consistently under-identified, and many liaisons are unclear about their role (CA State Auditor, 2019). There is a lack of funding for transportation and overly restrictive rules around who must accompany homeless students to and from school. Lastly, many students and families feel uncomfortable requesting services due to the stigma surrounding homelessness and the possible consequences of disclosing their homelessness status, such as the possibility of deportation or fear of their children being removed from their custody (Jones, 2019).

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