The Fayette County Board of Education on Oct. 29 unanimously approved revisions to an ongoing policy designed to provide educational services to homeless children. The policy is a continuation of one that has been in place for more than a decade.
Some in Fayette County may not be aware that the school system has a policy in place to provide schooling for homeless students.
School system Student Services Director Audrey Toney said the policy has been in effect for a number of years, with the Oct. 29 adoption by the school board coming after revisions earlier in the year.
Toney said that, in a given year, the school system provides educational services to approximately 80 homeless students.
Despite economic recovery throughout the nation, many families continue to experience a loss of housing, employment, or medical trauma that result in high mobility and instability for children. Some of Fayette’s students experience unstable living arrangements that include residing in shared housing, shelters, hotels/motels, or substandard living situations.
Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said November is Georgia Homelessness Awareness Month, adding that school system staff this month will be wearing green ribbons in recognition of the occasion.
“The student services department thanks all of our employees for their efforts throughout the year that focus on sharing information about issues involving homeless children and youth. We appreciate everyone’s support of the ongoing initiatives that address the needs of homeless children and youth,” Toney said.
The policy defines homeless children and youth according to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act.
“In accordance with the Act, every child of a homeless individual and every homeless child or youth shall have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education as provided to other students. The district shall assign and admit a child or youth who is homeless to a district school regardless of residence or whether the parent or student is able to produce records normally required for enrollment,” the policy said.
The school district will work with homeless children and youths and their families to provide stability in school attendance and other services. Special attention will be given to ensuring the enrollment and attendance of homeless children and youths not currently attending school in a manner that will not stigmatize or segregate them on the basis of their status as homeless, according to the policy.
The policy states that anyone having a concern or complaint regarding eligibility, school selection, or enrollment of a homeless child or youth should first present it orally and informally to the school district homeless liaison, who shall carry out the dispute resolution process as defined in the state plan for the education of homeless children and youth.