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Federal and state laws help students stay in or get into schools if they are homeless or do not have stable housing. They do not just protect children on the street or in a homeless shelter. The laws protect children and youths who do not have “a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”
This includes children who:
These laws apply to children and youth until high school graduation or equivalent (up to age 21).
These children are entitled to the same access to public school and public pre-school programs as other children.
Most is from the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Foster children in Louisiana are protected by LA Revised Statute § 17:238.
Yes. Students in the list above because of COVID-19 are considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act. So they are entitled to the same legal protections and services as other students experiencing homelessness or inadequate housing.
Each school district has a “Homeless Liaison.” This person can help your child get enrolled, receive school supplies, free school meals, transportation to and from your child’s school, tutoring, and help connect the family with community support agencies. You can find the contact information for your child’s school district here.
Yes. Unless you agree to move your child to a different school, your child’s school from before becoming homeless is required to try and keep your child enrolled there. A public school cannot deny enrollment to any child because that child has no permanent address. The school your child attended before becoming homeless is called his or her “school of origin.”
Yes. The student also the option of enrolling in school where they are currently living, even if it is outside of their original school district. However, the school may later dispute the enrollment
The school district must make placement decisions based on the best interests of the student.
Under the law:
The Homeless Liaisons are used to helping children in dire circumstances and usually very helpful.
Yes. A school must immediately enroll a student in the list, even if the student does not have documents normally required for enrollment, such as academic and medical/immunization records or proof of residency. Once enrolled, the Homeless Liaison for the school must help the family or guardian obtain the necessary records and/or immunizations.
No. Under the law, a student who went through homelessness (as set out in the list above) and gains permanent, adequate housing during the school year has the right to stay at their current school until the end of the school year.
Yes, until the student gets permanent housing. The Homeless Liaison will help arrange transportation to and from school. In general, transportation is available if one hour or less in each direction. Transportation must be made available even if the school does not provide it for other students.
The school may use a school bus or provide access to public transportation, like public bus passes. Factors like the distance from the school and the child’s age will be considered in making transportation arrangements.
This only applies to students who are currently homeless (in the list above). If a student gets permanent housing outside of the school district, the school can decide whether to continue transportation.
Yes. Homeless students are automatically eligible for free school lunch. Paperwork should be completed during the registration process with the Homeless Liaison.
Yes. Students experiencing homelessness have the right to fully participate in activities including enrichment programs, such as tutoring, gifted and talented programs, and test preparation and homework help programs; after-school programs; and extra-curricular activities, such as clubs and sports. If a homeless student meets the requirements for the activity (attendance, grades, try-outs, etc.), and a fee will be a barrier, the fees should be waived or paid for by the district. If the fees are not directly covered by the school district, the district should connect the student with other funding sources such as booster clubs, the school PTA, or non-profit organizations.
Updated as of September 18, 2020
With schools reopening in different ways, unemployment claimants may no longer have to be home to ensure that their children are safe or can continue their education. Under regular unemployment compensation, claimants cannot continue to receive benefits if they are forced to stay home to care for their children. However, the federal Department of Labor has provided guidance to all unemployment agencies on how to work with this new issue for most unemployment claimants to continue receiving their benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
You may not continue receiving unemployment benefits if you are able to telework at home despite your child’s school only offering virtual/online learning.
The only exception to this rule is if your child’s virtual learning is affecting your ability to telework causing reduced hours or keeping you from teleworking all together. Any earnings you have made each week must be reported to the Louisiana Workforce Commission in your weekly claim certifications.
You may qualify for your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as long as you are the only person providing care for your child or children and such child care is required for you to continue working. A school or facility that is only offering a hybrid model of teaching is considered to be closed for the purposes of the CARES act.
However, you cannot receive any benefits if you are teleworking from home or you are receiving any form of paid leave from your former or current employer.
If your child’s school is giving you the option as to what method you want your child to attend and you have chosen for them to do virtual learning you cannot receive your unemployment benefits if that keeps you from being able and available to work.
Schools offering two options to parents are not considered to be closed for the purpose of the CARES Act and those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. There may be a few exceptions to this rule, but each case is different based on one’s individual circumstances.
Some exceptions to his rule may be:
If you have any concerns or are having problems with your unemployment benefits you can apply for our services at our webpage or click here for more information. You may also review the federal guidelines for more information by clicking here.
Current as of August 17, 2020
Schools across Louisiana have begun to re-open or are scheduled to start in a few weeks. Each parish has its own reopening plan, which may include in-person or virtual classes, or a mix of both. It is important to check the reopening plan for your parish. Information on the reopening plans for the parishes our office serves can be found here. Within the parish plan, many schools will be making their own decisions about many things that can affect students’ health. What the students are exposed to is likely to affect others they live with.
The issues below can also apply to daycare or after-school programs.
This is information only, NOT legal advice. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services is not currently providing legal assistance on these issues. If you need legal advice, you should talk to an attorney. You may be able to get assistance from one of the organizations listed in this article.
Because of COVID-19, many common school activities are now unsafe. They may now spread the virus. Here are some things that can help spread the virus:
You can file a complaint directly with the Louisiana Department of Education by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also call the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office to file a complaint for any unsafe conditions at 800-256- 5452. Other ways of reaching the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office can be found here.
Your local school board, local, parish or state health departments, or your city, parish or state government may also be able to help. If you don’t know where to report, you can contact your city or parish councilperson, or state representative, to explain your concern and find out where to report.
People of any age with certain conditions are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The list of these conditions can be found here.
If your child suffers from any of these conditions or has another documented disability, the following may be able to help:
Virtual learning will be safer for students. But it, too, has issues, including:
If your student is experiencing these or other issues with virtual learning, it is important that you communicate with their teacher and school, so that your child does not face any disciplinary action or other consequences.
If your child has special needs and is not receiving proper accommodations, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) may be able to provide legal assistance. SPLC can be reached at 504-486-8982.
Guides for talking to your children about the virus can be found here.
Free activity book for discussing Covid with young children can be found here.
The Louisiana Department of Education’s parent guide for virtual learning can be found here.
Free learning and activity resources can be found here.
The Louisiana Parent Training & Information Center (LPTIC) provides parents with information and training about supporting children with disabilities. LPTIC can also connect you with resources related to assisting children with disabilities during virtual learning. You can contact the Center by calling 800-766-7736 or 504-888-9111 or find a list of resources and activities here. Additional resources for supporting children with special needs can be found here.
Current as of August 17, 2020
Schools across Louisiana have begun to re-open or are scheduled to start in a few weeks. Each parish has its own reopening plan, which may include in-person or virtual classes, or a mix of both. It is important to check the reopening plan for your parish. Information on the reopening plans for the parishes Southeast Louisiana Legal Services serves can be found by checking the links listed below.