Homeless Students

If your family lives in a shelter, motel, vehicle or campground, on the street, doubled up with friends or relatives, in an abandoned building or mobile home or in other inadequate accommodations because you cannot find or afford housing, then you and your preschool-aged and school-aged children have certain rights and protections under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act of 2001. Researchers estimate that there are 6,500 homeless children, ages three through eighteen, in South Carolina experiencing homelessness. Each of these children has the rights that are outlined in the McKinney-Vento Act.

The Rights of Homeless Students

  • Homeless students have the right to go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there. They must be given access to the same public education, including preschool, that is provided to other children.

  • Homeless students have the right to stay in the school they were attending before they became homeless or the school they last attended if it is their choice and it is feasible.

  • If a homeless student is assigned to a school not of his or her choosing, the school district must explain its decision in writing to his or her parent or guardian.

  • The parents or guardians of homeless children and youths – as well as homeless youths who do not have parents or guardians- have the right to appeal the district’s decision regarding the school to which the student has been assigned. The student is allowed to go to the school of his or her choice while the dispute is being resolved.

  • Homeless children and youths must be enrolled in school immediately, even if their parents or guardians do not have all of the paperwork such as school or medical records. Homeless liaisons must assist families in obtaining any pertinent documents or information.

  • School districts are responsible for providing transportation to and from the school if the homeless family requests it.

  • Homeless students have the right to participate in the same special programs and services that other children do.

  • Homeless students cannot be segregated from the regular school program simply because they are homeless.

What are the signs that a child or youth may be homeless?

  • A history of attending many schools

  • Erratic class attendance and tardiness

  • Mention of staying with grandparents or other relatives or in a motel

  • Hunger and the hoarding of food

  • Hostility and anger

  • Poor hygiene and grooming

  • Sleeping in class

  • Inadequate clothing or clothes that are inappropriate for the weather

  • Lack of preparation for class


If you would like more information, please email LaKinsha R. Swinton, Director of Student Services and District McKinney-Vento Act Homeless Liaison, or call 843-322-5451.