E-Alerts & Press Releases

PJC Seeks Support for Spanish Language Version of "Beyond Debate: Rights of Homeless Students"

Homeless Children Have the Right to Education:
Help Us Empower Them
Tens of thousands of Maryland children endure the loss of their homes each year, and many more are at risk of homelessness due to the current economic crisis. Once homeless, children are sometimes rejected by the school they attended before they lost their home, are separated from trusted teachers and friends, and are uprooted from established school programs at a time when they most need stability in their lives. Such educational instability has profound effects on the academic achievement of the student. Homeless children who transfer schools are 35% more likely to repeat a grade and 78% more likely to have poor attendance than those who do not transfer.  Moreover, it takes a student four to six months to “catch up” every time the student transfers to a different school.  Unfortunately, many homeless children attend multiple schools in a given year.
The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento) protects homeless children from educational disruption in order to better enable them to achieve academic success. The definition of “homeless” includes children who are ‘doubled up’ with relatives or friends.  Homeless children are generally entitled to continue to attend the last school they attended prior to homelessness, and they must receive free transportation to/from that school. Alternatively, if transferring to the local school is in the child’s best interest, the local school must immediately enroll the student even if they do not have required paper work, such as proof of residency or school records. Further, all public schools are required to actively identify homeless students and remove barriers to homeless children’s enrollment, attendance, and success in school. Finally, McKinney-Vento prohibits schools from segregating homeless students, either in a separate school, or in a separate program within a school.
Over the past decade, the PJC has used a variety of tools to enforce the rights of homeless children under McKinney Vento Act. In fact, we are one of the nation’s leading homeless education advocates. Recently, we released a film that teaches families, social service providers, advocates and educators about McKinney-Vento’s basic protections. This film “Beyond Debate” is rapidly increasing awareness about homelessness through a dramatization of one student’s story.
Our initial efforts to distribute “Beyond Debate” have confirmed thatthis project was the right idea at the right time. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The film is now being used by public health officials, social service agencies, educators, juvenile justice advocates and hundreds of others who support vulnerable families. We have been asked by several advocates whether and when we can produce films that speak to other cultures and in other languages, and we are now responding to such requests.
Our next step is to create and produce a culturally competent, Spanish-language version of the film. Maryland has a significant population of families whose primary language is Spanish. These families include recent immigrants and migrant workers in our agricultural areas. Their children are protected by McKinney-Vento but are largely unserved. This film will help educate their families and the community about their education rights and how to enforce them.
Donors who are interested in supporting this film can contact Jennifer Pelton, PJC Director of Development at (410)625-9409 x239 or peltonj@publicjustice.org. Gifts can be mailed to PJC, One North Charles Street, Suite 200, Baltimore, MD 21201.

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