The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (also referred to as the Act or the McKinney-Vento Act) acknowledges that disputes may arise between the school district and homeless students and their parents, or unaccompanied youth, when the district seeks to place a student in a school other than the school of origin or the school requested by the parent or unaccompanied youth. The Act includes dispute resolution among the required duties of the local education agency (LEA) liaison. The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has developed a dispute resolution process as required by the McKinney-Vento Act.
Districts should bear in mind that disputes related to school selection or enrollment should be initiated at the request of the parent or unaccompanied youth and not at the request or convenience of the school district. Additionally, issues related to the definition of homelessness, the responsibilities of the school district to serve homeless children and youth, and/or the explicit rights of homeless children and youth are addressed in the McKinney-Vento Act. Disputes related to the school placement and enrollment of homeless children and youths shall be resolved within the parameters of the federal McKinney-Vento Act. The dispute resolution process for the school placement of homeless children and youths shall not be used in an effort to circumvent or supersede any part of the federal McKinney-Vento Act.
The following procedures are specified in the Act:
- Enrollment: If a dispute arises over school selection or enrollment in a school, the child or youth shall be immediately admitted to the school in which enrollment is sought, pending resolution of the dispute. In the case of an unaccompanied youth, the homeless liaison shall ensure that the youth is immediately enrolled in the school in which enrollment is sought, pending resolution of the dispute.
- Written Explanation: The district must provide a written explanation of the school placement decision to the parent or, in the case of an unaccompanied youth, to the unaccompanied youth. (The written explanation must include a description of the parent’s or unaccompanied youth’s right to appeal the decision.)
- Liaison: The designated LEA homeless liaison is assigned to carry out the dispute resolution process in an expeditious manner.
- Responsibility: The school district, usually the district’s homeless liaison, is responsible to inform the parent of the homeless student(s) or the unaccompanied youth of the dispute resolution process.
In a case where a dispute occurs regarding the enrollment of a homeless child or youth, the following process must be used:
- Level I of the appeal is to the district's homeless liaison. If unresolved at this level, the case is appealed to the local school district's superintendent (Level II), and if the dispute continues to be unresolved, the final appeal (Level III) is to OSPI. Every effort must be made to resolve the complaint or dispute at the local level before it is brought to OSPI.