In New York City, school-age children are afforded certain rights under The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
If you live in a shelter and your family is forced to move, you have the right to:
McKinney-Vento defines a homeless child or youth as someone who does not have a regular, permanent, and adequate nighttime residence. If you are living in a shelter, this law applies to you, regardless of immigration status. It also applies to students who do not live with a parent or guardian (“unaccompanied youth”).
If you live with your parents, they will decide which school you will attend. If you are an unaccompanied youth, you can decide which school you want to go to.
Homeless children with disabilities can also stay in their old schools or enroll in closer schools after they move. A new school must give you the same special education supports and services that you received in your old school.
Your school has a Students in Temporary Housing liaison. The list of liaisons is here. You can also contact the Family Welcome Center in your borough for help transferring schools. Call 311 for contact information.
If you stay in your old school, how you travel depends on your age. In general, younger students will get a school bus, and older students will get MetroCards. Older students with disabilities can sometimes get school bussing too. Parents of children in Pre-K-6th grade also get MetroCards to take them to school.
The New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students (NYS-TEACHS) can provide more information and help. Contact them at 800-388-2014 or online.
New York City Public Schools (NYCPS) must have services available in the nine most common languages, which include: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.
For other languages, telephone translations are available at a parent’s request.
A parent should first request language services from their child’s school.
A parent can also call 718-935-2013 to make a request for language services. Interpretation over the phone is available in over 240 languages.
NYCPS must provide interpretation services so the parent can communicate with NYCPS personnel about their child’s education. This includes parent teacher conferences and IEP meetings.
NYCPS’s Family Welcome Centers (enrollment offices) and school superintendent offices must provide interpretation for parents for all school related questions, and during enrollment/registration.
If a parent has difficulties accessing language services, they can file a complaint by calling 311 or contact the Office of Language Access at 718-935-2013.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 19 December 2023
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