Homeless students have special rights to school enrollment, transportation and fee waivers

By Patricia Nix-Hodes, Director of The Law Project at CCH

As students head back to school, it’s important to point out that children and teens without housing have special rights to school enrollment, transportation and school fee waivers.  

Eligible students include those who:
  • share the housing of others (doubled-up) due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason
  • live in a shelter or transitional housing program
  • live in motels, hotels, trailer park or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations
  • live on the street, in a car, or somewhere that people don’t usually live, or live in substandard housing.

Youth living on their own, without a parent or guardian, have the same educational rights as other teens. They do not need an adult in order to enroll in school.

The Law Project at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless provides free legal assistance to families and youth. For help, call our toll-free helpline at (800) 940-1119. For more information, click here.

Students experiencing homelessness should not miss any school days due to delay or barriers to enrollment.

Schools must immediately enroll students living in homeless situations, even if they do not have all of the documents normally required to register, such as proof of residency, proof of immunizations or physicals, previous school records, or any other documents.

A change in housing does not have to mean a change in school.

Children and youth who lose their housing or change their temporary living situation have the right to continue attending the same school. This provides stability and continuity to students, helping them academically and socially. Schools must provide transportation assistance to allow children to continue attending the same school.

Many schools charge fees at the start of the school year and throughout the year for things such as textbooks, field trips, class supplies, and graduation costs. These fees must be waived for students in homeless situations and free school meals must be provided.

Download and distribute our updated Educational Rights brochure.