Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S12
BY CHRISTINA A. SAMUELS
Disabled and Homeless:
Twice as Vulnerable
ore than 1.3 million children in public
school experienced homelessness during the 2015-16 school year.
Of those, about 18 percent-five percentage points higher than the rate for
the general student population-were
also students with disabilities.
One of those students was Myesha Lyles, now a 22-yearold college student at Florida International University in
Miami. In school, she had to cope with placement in several foster homes, a difficult relationship with her adoptive
mother, and bouts of housing insecurity that left her staying
with various friends. At 17, she lost her vision due to a brain
tumor. That added a disability to her list of challenges.
Lyles kept a lot of her family difficulties secret from school
"I felt like I needed to keep it to myself. [Teachers] didn't
make themselves so open and welcome," said Lyles.
And she also reasoned, where would she go if educators
"I was really scared that if I said something, they were
going to take us and separate me from my sisters," Lyles said.
Lyles has been able to move past some of her earlier struggles. She plans to graduate this fall with a bachelor's degree
in psychology; Florida provides free college tuition to children
adopted from foster care.
But her story illustrates some of the deep vulnerabilities of
children facing both a disability and homelessness, and the
challenges that can come with trying to make sure they get
the help they need.
Two federal laws, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act,
govern school responsibilities when it comes to serving such
children. But in some cases, the laws have different requirements and operate on different timelines. Both laws require
schools to proactively identify children and families in need,
but sometimes families or students keep their problems secret out of fear and shame. And sometimes, school personnel
may not recognize the signs that a student or family is struggling, or they may not know how best to help.
When children enroll in school is an obvious time to identify some families in need, said Patricia Popp, the director
of Project Hope-Virginia, which oversees that state's McKinney-Vento program. Each state disperses federal funds to
school districts for homeless student support services.
"Beyond that, [homeless student liaisons] explicitly need
to train every staff member, to make sure that teachers and
counselors and bus drivers know what we mean by 'homeless
education purposes.' It could be the little guy whose mom
Educators and for
is sitting in the car every day to pick him up. Teachers need to
administrators know what to listen for. It's all those little red flags."
Among homeless students, 76 percent of them are sharing
housing with another person, or what the law calls "doubled up." The remainder are in shelters, hotels and motels,
or unsheltered-living in cars or abandoned buildings, for
when it comes example.
GETTING SUPPORT FAST
Angeleatha McAdoo, the homeless-education advocate
for the Christina district in Wilmington, Del., estimates that
for a population 32 percent of the district's approximately 500 homeless
students have disabilities. McAdoo receives data sheets on
homeless students from school administrators.
who may be
"We try to put them to the top of the list" for help, McAdoo
said. But homeless students are highly mobile, and a phone
number given to a school one day may not work later on
when staff members try to reach the family.
trying to go
"We try to tell the parent, if you move, you need to notify
me as soon as possible, so that we can set the transporta-
tion [to school] based on that moving date. I think that's a
big piece of it, we try to minimize that interruption of their
education as much as possible."
In Florida, a state with a large homeless student population, about 18 percent are classified as having disabilities.
Debra Albo-Steiger, an administrator who oversees support
for homeless students in the 350,000-student Miami-Dade
district, said she also tries to get help to families quickly.
"If I have a student who is coming from another district, I
immediately call our special ed office. I'm not going to wait
months for these kids' [individualized education program] to
be done. If they're within the shelter system, we're working
with the shelter staff on really how to best help that family,"
said Albo-Steiger, who oversees a program for the district
called Project UP-START.
The acronym, which stands for "Updating Personnel Support and Tutoring Activities to Retain Transitioning Students," offers both a description of the program's work and
a term for families-"transitioning"-that Albo-Steiger says
makes it more palatable for them to accept support.
Albo-Steiger did not work with Lyles, but said that one
of her goals has been to educate school staff about signs
that children may be in crisis. Fear of getting in trouble or
being separated from loved ones is common for youth facing
homelessness, she said, making school staffers even more
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report
Education Week - March 7, 2018
Yzmar Roman, an 11th grader in Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Emotional Needs of Students, Educators Crucial to Puerto Rico’s School Recovery
School Districts Weigh Security After Shooting
Is It Time for a Focus on Civics Education?
Immigrants Thrive In Canadian Schools
News in Brief
DACA Continues for Now, as Does Uncertainty for ‘Dreamers’
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Schools Teach ‘Cyber Hygiene’ to Prevent Internet Attacks
States Confront Range of Hurdles To Swift Action on School Security
Teachers With Gun Training Wary of Trump’s Proposal
Eyes on Pearson as It Moves to Sell Curriculum Business
Outside Supreme Court, Union Supporters, Detractors Face Off
Case Over Union Fees Poised on Knife’s Edge
DeVos Eyeing School Choice As Option for Military Families
Q&A with nadine burke harris: In the Wake of Adversity, a Pediatrician’s Guidance
Olga Acosta Price & Wendy Ellis: Schools Shouldn’t Tackle Trauma Alone
Collected responses: After Parkland, Where Do We Go From Here?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Gregg Behr: The 2020 Census: Every Child Counts
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - SC1
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - SC2
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S1
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S2
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S3
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S4
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S5
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S6
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S7
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S8
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S9
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S10
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S11
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S12
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S13
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S14
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S15
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S16
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S17
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - SC4
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - CW1
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - CW2
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - CW3
Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - CW4