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Homeless Children Suit Settles Against Baltimore County

Homeless students in Baltimore County, represented by the Public Justice Center, have reached a settlement agreement with the Baltimore County Public School system to resolve a two year old class action lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that the school system failed to comply with the students’ rights to education under the federal McKinney-Vento law. The Public Justice Center identified problems that the school system has agreed to rectify, including properly identifying homeless children, promptly enrolling them in school, and providing transportation, meals and other critical school services, as well as informing them of their right to appeal. Lead attorney Sally Dworak-Fisher was featured on WBAL-TV on Friday evening, May 9, 2008. Click here for a link to the video: http://www.wbaltv.com/video/16218715/index.html . The text of the video is reprinted below. Click here for a link to a summary of homeless children's rights to education. WBAL-TV Settlement Reached In Homeless Students Lawsuit POSTED: 5:24 pm EDT May 9, 2008 BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. -- More than 1,000 Baltimore County homeless students and their parents have gotten a big break. Federal court Judge Catherine Blake issued a settlement notice Thursday in a class action lawsuit that brings to an end a two-year lawsuit against the county school system by several homeless families. Those families, who were staying in homeless shelters at the time, accused the Baltimore County school system of failing to help out with school enrollment and transportation. The group contacted the Public Justice Center in downtown Baltimore for help. "We worked with the parents and we eventually filed suit," said Sally Dworak-Fisher of the Public Justice Center. Under the terms of that settlement, Baltimore County must do more to identify and enroll homeless students in school. The district must also work to provide transportation, meals and other critical school services, as well as inform them of their right to appeal. "For people in a homeless situation, what it means is that student can either continue in the school they are already in or transfer to a local school and have immediate enrollment, even if they lack the documentation," Dworak-Fisher said. The homeless school settlement is being issued as Baltimore County recorded a rise in its homeless student population, which is currently about 1,300 -- up by 100 students over last year and about 500 since 2004. Besides the numbers, Baltimore County also reviewed its definition of homeless students. "People facing mortgage foreclosures and those that are suddenly doubled up with family members and friends -- because they have a roof over their heads, they don't realize they might have these protections. So, it's a matter of increasing the identification of the homeless population," Dworak-Fisher said. Baltimore County school officials said they're pleased to have reached a settlement without going to trial and said they look forward to continuing services to homeless students. To learn more about the settlement, click here. Copyright 2008 by wbaltv.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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