Published: April 27, 2021

Many school and district staff have limited information on the laws and rights of students experiencing homelessness. To effectively support this student population, staff should receive comprehensive professional training and development to be knowledgeable about the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and Washington State–specific policies to support students experiencing homelessness and unaccompanied youth. Not only should training include information about laws, but there should be guidance on how to tactfully identify and protect the privacy of students experiencing homelessness.

(Note: Abbreviations following recommendations indicate sources for those recommendations. See the Sources Key below for details.)

Training for Schools and Districts

Goal 1: All school and district staff, including those in academic, support, service, and administrative roles, are trained annually to identify and assist students experiencing homelessness.

  1. Require McKinney-Vento training for all departments and staff. Trainings should cover definitions of homelessness, how to look for signs that a student may be experiencing homelessness, how to respond to those signs, how to provide trauma-informed care, and how to bring racial equity into staff work. Trainings should be in easily accessible formats (e.g., webinars, in-person training, summer institutes). (PE, LE)
    • Strategy 1: Devote a day to train school and district staff on how to best support students experiencing homelessness.
    • Strategy 2: Embed McKinney-Vento training into existing professional development opportunities for staff (e.g., in meetings, summer institutes).
    • Strategy 3: Use the train-the-trainers approach in McKinney-Vento training. Afterward, staff will be expected to pass on their knowledge to colleagues (e.g., McKinney-Vento liaisons, foster care providers).
  2. Offer refresher courses to educate staff on McKinney-Vento laws and rights. These courses should be tailored to meet the evolving needs of the staff in each district and school building (e.g., training school counselors on the credit accrual process for students experiencing homelessness). (PE, LE)
    • Strategy 1: Create resources and materials, such as tailored handbooks, for each staff type to make sure they have the information they need to learn about the rights of students under the McKinney-Vento Act.

Sources Key

AcronymnCategorySources Include:
PEProfessional ExpertiseBuilding Changes staff; school and district staff interviewed through Schoolhouse Washington-funded projects and our Students of Color project
LELived ExpertiseInterviews with with parents, students (including those from our Students of Color project), and school staff in Washington State
MMMixed-methods ResearchBeating the Odds quantitative and qualitative analysis showing association between a practice and better-than-predicted outcomes

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