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Someone to Turn To Webinar Transcript

Transcript of the video recording of the Someone To Turn To: School Site Liaisons for Students Experiencing Homelessness Webinar.

Someone to Turn To Video web page

Okay let’s get started. Min 1:22-1:35

This webinar will go over the following agenda items. We will start with some introductions, followed by some background information regarding the law. We will also spend time talking about how to designate a school site liaison and most importantly you will hear from a specific district that implements school site liaisons and the benefits that it offers to homeless children and youth.

Hi! I am Leanne Wheeler and I a consultant with the California Department of Education, I am also the State Coordinator for Homeless Education. Along with me are two people that were instrumental in creating this PowerPoint and the resources. I am going to let them introduce themselves, Alexis.

Alexis: Hey all, good morning. My name is Alexis Piazza. I’m a legal fellow, an equal justice works fellow at the ACLU foundation of southern California. Um just two sentences about my work, my fellowship work is focused on helping students experiencing homelessness in the Inland Empire and I am also part of the ACLU of California Statewide Education Equity team, we have a long history of fighting for students rights in California especially to increase resources for high needs students. And the school to prison pipeline that pushes students of color out of school and into the juvenile criminal justice systems. I am very excited to join everyone this morning.

Leanne: And Patricia.

Patricia: Yeah, good morning everyone, this is Patricia Julianelle, I am the director of program advancement and legal affairs at SchoolHouse Connection I’m very, very excited about this webinar, it’s been a long processes and a lot of from the webinar team to put together the slideshow and the accompanying guidance and I hope it’ll be a great resource for everyone who is on the webinar today.

Leanne: Great thank you so much.

So let’s get to some of the background information. I see that we have almost over 150 people on this webinar and so many of you probably have this information already memorized, but I’d like to just give you some background information.

McKinney-Vento was originally passed in 1987 it was reauthorized in 2001 under the No Child Left Behind Act, and then it was reauthorized under Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. The intent of the McKinney-Vento Act is to ensure that children and youth experiencing homelessness have access to the same, free appropriate public education as their non-homeless peers. And as we all know the definition of homelessness is a child that lacks a fixed, regular and adequate night time residence.

The law applies to all local educational agencies or what we call LEAs regardless of their funding. California defines an LEA as a school district, a county office of education, a charter school or a special education local plan area.

Alexis: The McKinney-Vento Act requires all LEAs to designate an appropriate staff person as a local homeless education liaison and throughout this presentation we will refer to them as an LEA liaison or a district liaison.

LEA liaisons play a critical role in ensuring compliance with the McKinney-Vento Act, helping families navigate the school system, and furthering McKinney-Vento’s goal of ensuring equal access to a free, appropriate public education. Next slide please.

In particular recent amendments made as part of the reauthorization of McKinney-Vento Act under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act now require that the LEA liaison is quote, able to carry out the duties described in the law. Leanne will summarize those duties in a moment. Given this additional emphasis on the time and capacity of LEA liaisons to carry out their duties the California Homeless Youth Project and the ACLU Foundations of California administered a statewide survey last year of homeless liaisons in districts across the state to explore the issue of capacity in California. We published two reports which you may have seen. One was focused on K-12 liaisons in the K-12 system and the other at the community college system. So just thinking about the K-12 level we received responses from nearly 700 LEAs and we heard specifically from the designated McKinney-Vento liaisons in 547 school districts, or about 1/3 of all LEAs in California. And we found that LEA liaisons regularly lacked the capacity, time and resources to carry out their duties. So just a few examples, about one in ten LEAs liaisons describes homeless liaison as their primary job title, so for almost all homeless liaisons that was not their only or their primary or their only job function. Second, 2/3rds, 66 percent of LEA liaisons reported spending between zero and five per week to support all the students experiencing homelessness in their district and when we calculated this out it usually equated to less than one minute of support per student each week. And third over 1/3rd of LEA liaisons reported lacking sufficient time to do their job effectively. As one LEA liaison wrote in the survey quote I’m in crisis mode and cannot pro-actively respond to the needs of homeless students and families. Given these findings in California we have to find ways to better support and enable LEA liaisons to carry out their duties to support students experiencing homelessness. Next slide.

Leanne: I forgot to unmute myself, sorry. It’s Leanne again, in the next four slides we’re going to go over the duties of an LEA homeless liaison. For starters all Liaisons are required to ensure that homeless children and youth are identified and enrolled immediately in school. This takes up a lot of time for liaisons due to the fact that there is a lot of gray area when it comes to the law. And you really have to look at eligibility as a case by case situation. Once these children are enrolled these students need to have full access to all educational services that they are eligible for and that includes public preschool programs such as Head Start. It includes Title 1 services, it includes free and reduced lunch, and a lot of other services.

Homeless Liaisons are required to refer students and their families to appropriate services, including health care, dental services, mental health, substance abuse, and now under the Every Student Succeeds Act, housing services.

In addition, parents, guardians, and unaccompanied homeless youth should be informed of their educational rights and their educational opportunities. An unaccompanied homeless youth is defined as a youth that is not in the physical custody of their parent and guardian and lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night time residency.

The LEA homeless Liaison needs to ensure that educational rights are either posted or disseminated. A lot of times a school district or a charter school will put their educational rights in their student handbook, but posters should be around in the community. And if you need posters, please don’t hesitate to give us a call, or an email and we will send those out to you for free. Our contact information will be on the last slide. Back to the liaisons duties they also need to assist with disputes over eligibility, school selection and enrollment if necessary. And they need to inform parents and guardians, including unaccompanied homeless youth of transportation requirements and services to get them back to and from school.

Under ESSA homeless liaisons now are required to provide school personnel professional development opportunities, let me re-state that Liaisons are now required to provide professional development opportunities to school personnel and that requires them to reach out to secretaries, teachers, administrators and give them the background information regarding homeless education.

And finally, homeless liaisons need to assist unaccompanied homeless youth with additional help such as enrollment, transportation, and verifying them for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.

Patricia: So after hearing Leanne list the 10 duties of the liaison, I think it’s pretty clear that this is not a one-person job. Particularly considering what Alexis shared from the LEA survey-- that so few LEA liaisons are full-time in that position or even feel they have the time they need to complete their duties. So that is why the law specifically contemplates that the liaison is not expected to do this job alone, the law specifically says the liaison “must ensure that” the 10 duties are fulfilled, it doesn’t say that the liaison has to do the 10 duties. And that language is no accident. It’s really mean to be a team approach, with the Liaison being the head of that team. So given those numerous responsibilities and how important they are everything from identifying students to enrolling them, to helping them succeed many LEAs find that it is necessary to have a staff person at each school site to help identify and assist students experiencing homelessness, and we’re referring to them as school site liaisons in this presentation. I have also heard them being called building contacts, or other names, but the idea is that it can be a team of people at every school building, someone to represent that building and to assist the LEA level liaison to ensure that all of those duties are completed. Next slide.

This has been a best practice and a recommended practice for quite some time the National Center for Homeless Education has recommended school site liaisons for quite some time. Again, to provide the LEA level liaison with that school level view. That’s a person that’s going to actually be coming in contact with students on a daily basis who’s really going to understand the culture, and the policies and practices of that particular school building and is going to be in a really good position to help identify and enroll students in that building and provide information back and forth to the LEA level liaison.

Alexis: So knowing that having or designating a school site liaison was and is a nationally recognized best practice, as Patricia mentioned in our survey that was one of the questions or a few of the questions we asked homeless liaisons across the state to try to understand to what extent districts were already doing this in California. We were pleasantly surprised with how many districts reported implementing this practice in some way in their district. So again, based on a survey of nearly five hundred and fifty designated LEA liaisons 84 percent reported that they had a school based point of contact on whom they could rely to identify or assist students experiencing homelessness. And if you break that 84 percent down, um, 41 percent said that they have formally designated school site liaisons and 43 percent said they had informally designated school site liaisons. So although the level of formality or policy around this practice varied, a large majority of the school districts did say they implemented it in some way. And this was true even among the smallest LEAs with fewer than a thousand students, so single school districts charter schools, things like that with more than three quarters reported implementing this best practice. So, it’s clear based on the survey findings that many LEAs in California already recognize that designating school site liaisons is a common sense way to help LEA liaisons carry out their duties. Next slide.

Patricia: So as Alexis mentioned earlier, the McKinney Vento Act as amended by ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, specifies that the LEA liaison must be “able to carry out” the 10 duties in the law. After ESSA was passed the Department of Education has provided guidance about what it means to be able to carry out the duties. We’re going to tell you a little bit about what that guidance says over the next three slides but as we go over it you’ll notice it does not state or even imply that the liaison has to do this work alone. Like I said before this really is a job for a team. So, the liaison might be Captain Marvel, but you still need Ironman, and Captain America, and Black Widow, and all the Avengers to carry out all the legal duties and make sure students are identified, enrolled, and successful in school.

So what the department of education specifically says around looking at whom to designate in that liaison role, is to make sure that it’s someone who can allocate sufficient time to do the duties effectively. And again, if you have a team approach you know you’ll probably have a relatively small portion of time, of several people, so they’re all working together. LEA administrators of course need to support liaisons in fulfilling their duties and in making timely decisions recognizing that the liaison duties are very important and really respecting those. Review the legal requirements for the position and also review data indicating what’s the prevalence of homelessness in that LEA and or in the attendance area of that particular school building if we are looking at the school site liaison. And what are the needs that we’re seeing of homeless children in the LEA and again in that particular school building or attendance area. Next slide.

Other considerations from the Department of education on the next slide, (short pause) there we go thank you. Is to look at past technical assistance provided to the LEA. So, if this LEA has had some challenges implementing the McKinney Vento Act, maybe school personnel aren’t really understanding the law so you need to do a little bit more training and professional development with your school personnel maybe there are other systems that just haven’t quite worked that would indicate the need for some additional time and perhaps some additional authority in the liaison position.

Looking again at how many schools are in the LEA how many students are in the LEA and how many students experiencing homelessness have been identified. And I would say that number could be lower, it could be higher because you might be in a particular LEA doing a great job at identification, maybe you’ve already got those school site liaisons designated, you’re really identifying a lot of your students, that high number indicates that you probably might need some extra capacity to make sure that you can serve all of those students. But on the flip side you might have an LEA that has identified very few students experiencing homelessness that doesn’t necessarily really mean you need less time, or less support for the liaison, it may in fact mean that the liaisons needs more time and more support to enhance those identification strategies to do a more robust job at identification. And you might find out at the end of that school year that you actually have a hundred or two hundred more students experiencing homelessness than you’d identified in the past. So the number of identified students I think can cut both ways when you are looking at what kind of capacity the liaison needs and the school site liaisons as well. Also, discussing the time allocation with others. What are your neighboring LEAs doing, what are other schools doing, you know if you have a school district that is demographically pretty similar to a neighbor and that neighbor is, you know, identifying twice as many students experiencing homelessness and they have school site liaisons in every building and you don’t have that, that might be an indicator that that’s something you should explore. Next slide.

Alexis: So turning back to our statewide survey last year we asked those eighty four percent of LEAs that reported designating school site liaisons, who do they typically designate? And the most common responses were that LEAs in California designate administrators, fifty eight percent said that, counselors or school psychologists, fifty five percent said that. And other, forty five percent said that, which most often meant clerical staff in the school building.

In our follow up interviews with LEA liaisons about how they implemented this practice we also learned about districts that may designate different roles at different types of campuses. So for example, um one district that had designated a parent coordinator position at the elementary level, a social worker at the middle school level and an assistant principal at the high school level in that district. We also learned of districts that may designate multiple people at each campus. So for example we learned about how one district designates an administrator and a front office staff at each campus to lead school level training and identification respectively. And our spotlight today from Oxnard Union High School District is one of those districts that relies on multiple personnel at each campus. Next slide.

Unfortunately, we also heard about a small number of districts that designate law enforcement such as a school resource officer as a school site liaison. According to our survey about one in ten districts that have school site liaisons relied in part on SRO’s, school resource officers as that school site liaison. And this finding is troubling for at least two main reasons, first, research has found that the presence of School Resource Officers has led to high rates of citations and arrests among students of color who disproportionately experience homelessness nationwide and in California. Second, research has also found that the inappropriate reliance on school based law enforcement can actually promote distrust in schools. So, as any advocate for children or youth experiencing homelessness knows, families often feel stigma around their status as poor, or experiencing homelessness, or in need of additional help. In addition, many parents are worried that self-identifying as homeless may lead to a report of child abuse or neglect. And also, many parents are concerned about sharing information related to their immigration status so for all these reasons youth and families are especially reluctant to share their information with law enforcement. So given the evidence that school resource officers criminalize students of color and promote distrust in schools they should not be designated as a school site liaisons for students experiencing homelessness.

Patricia: We’ve heard from a number of LEAs that have established a school site liaisons that it’s good to have a clear delineation of who does what. So, what are the duties and what are the responsibilities of the LEA level liaison and what will the school site level liaison really be in charge of in his or her particular school building?  I think the exact structure of that protocol and that division of duties really can vary from LEA to LEA, it can depend on things like the size of the school district. Umm you know what kind of formality is in place already between the LEA level and the school site level liaison. But just to give people some guidance about what might work CDE does have a draft protocol, that’s one of the handouts that’s available on their website. So you can look at one draft of how to divide those duties between the LEA level liaison and the school site liaison.  School site liaisons may be better suited for some duties such as identification, again because they are right there in the school building, they’re interacting every day with school personnel like front office staff, teachers, cafeteria workers, school counselors, school social workers, etc. who are really in a great position to notice differences in behavior, differences in appearance, or attendance, or discipline, those kinds of red flags that might indicate that a student might be experiencing homelessness. Being able to have that hands on connection students and the professionals who are seeing the students every day, really puts the school site liaison in a great position to be working on identification. Again, enrollment might be a great duty for school site liaison, not that they’re doing enrollment, but that they are ensuring that the enrollment occurs. Some LEAs might have centralized enrollment at the district level and so it may be better for the LEA level liaison to be in charge of that but in many cases it’s good for the school site liaison to be keeping tabs on making sure that enrollment is immediate, you know, that students come in and they’re in school that same day or the next day. That transportation is set up quickly, those school site liaisons is going to be in a really good position to see did the student show up today, did the bus show up, what happened you know was that transportation in place and also to do referrals to outside services that will be local to that particular school site. On the other hand the LEA level liaisons I think are much better suited to lead on dispute resolution. I think they’re better suited to lead on trainings and I think for those two duties what’s important is that there’s consistency district wide. So at a training, whether you’re at the high school or the elementary school, whether you’re training the principals or the counselors the same message is being given to everyone. Whereas if you have school site liaisons do trainings, they might change some words they might change some slides, and then you have different messages going to different people in the district and that can be confusing. The same thing with dispute resolution. You would never want a situation where a school site liaison on one school is making a particular determination relative to best interest let’s say okay eligibility, and a school site liaison in another building maybe is making a different determination on that questions so I think those are probably better left at the LEA level to ensure you know that kind of consistency. Next slide. As I mentioned the sample protocol is available in the CDE guidance Appendix A which is on the CDE website. Which I know is in the little Q and A box in WebEx for you to look at and I would just say no matter how the duties are allocated or who’s designated as the school site level liaison the buck really stops with the LEA liaison, again that’s the person with the legal duty to ensure that all of the duties in the McKinney Vento Act are carried out. So if there’s questions if there’s confusion, if people you know aren’t really sure, who’s doing what the buck really is always going to stop at the LEA level with that liaison legally speaking. Next slide.

And of course it’s really important to share information, it’s important for community agencies to know, um, who the LEA level Liaison is, I know there’s a requirement for you all to inform the state coordinator who the LEA liaison is, to keep that information current with the state coordinator, of course there’s a lot of turn over but that’s a really important and legally required central repository for LEA liaison information so that if Leanne gets a call or question she knows who to reach out to in that particular LEA but also in your own community. Your school staff needs to know who the LEA liaison is because if or and also who their school building liaison is because if they have a question, if they see a student that they think huh I’m seeing some red flags, I think that this student might be experiencing homelessness of course they need to know who to contact about that. The same is true of your youth shelters, your families shelters, your advocates in the community, your preschool providers, you might have a Head Start provider that knows that they have a three year old who’s experiencing homelessness and that, that three year old has a seven year old sibling in your school, if they know who the liaison is they can share that information so it’s good to make that information public and share it. Next slide.

(28:57)

Leanne: Well as Alexis has talked about the California Homeless Youth Project and ACLU put together the survey and through that survey experience Ray Gonzales was a spotlight that Alexis has reached out to and I am, I’m honored to be able to have the um, privilege to introduce Ray who is um, the coordinator of student interventions within the Oxnard Unified High School District um and he’s going to talk a little bit about his experiences as well as his background information so that you kind of get the how to’s from somebody out there in the field so I am pleased to introduce and thank Ray for being a part of this webinar and for everything you do Ray.

Ray: Thank you, I’m pleased to be here and be able to discuss such an important subject, a group of population that really needs our support. In regards to Oxnard Union High School District and our background we’re a district of around 17 thousand plus, we’re in Ventura County, the city of Oxnard. The district itself runs the whole gamut, social economically, we have from very wealthy, the middle to the poor. Within all of our schools when we combine everything we do have a very large free and reduced population. In fact several of our schools are school wide free and reduced lunch because of the numbers are so high. We have a very large Hispanic population and our homeless population and obviously it varies through the year but we’re usually somewhere in the range between 1600 to 2500 throughout the year depending on the time of the year. In essence it comes out to approximately about 15 percent of our population will be experiencing homelessness throughout the year. 

In regards to school sites and how we approach that it’s very much a team approach in an elected term used earlier, the buck stops with the Liaison and it’s very true and they have to oversee the things that get done at the district level and then the training and everything, really everything that needs to get to the sites and so as we do it it’s really a team approach and it consists of our counselors, we have school wide counselors, several, usually around seven or eight at each school site. We have large schools about 2,000 is our smallest schools and 3,000 is our bigger schools and um so we have a lot of counselors there. They have large obviously caseloads though with those kinds of numbers, but they play an important role in identification of students. They play a really key role in the identification and then they work with the records department to get it into our student information system once that delicate conversation is held with the student and family to determine that they are in a homeless situation.

Leanne: Hey Ray, this is Leanne. I am sorry to interrupt I have a couple people typing in that they need you to speak up a little bit louder so.

Ray: Okay. I apologize umm.

Leanne: No, thank you I appreciate that.

Ray: I can review that last point I made which was we’re definitely a team approach and um our counselors at the school sites through the identification process.  Once they have the delicate conversation in regards to having the conference with the student and the parent and determining that the student is in a homeless situation they work with the records department to get it documented in our student information system which allows staff to make sure that they have a knowledge, and that the student is eligible for additional resources.

Um, we have special programs counselors at the school sites and they support the homeless population in an academic capacity as far as making sure as necessary they get tutoring through the school wide tutoring programs as well as making sure that any student who qualifies for AB 1806 which is the graduation waiver process needs it gets it done, and I sign off on every single one of those at the district level to make sure that the right process is being followed.

In addition at our sites we have what we call, student intervention specialists and their role is to provide social emotional support to the homeless students. They’re in charge of offering counseling access whether it be group support or individual counseling for things such as anger management, teen issues, alcohol or substance abuse issues that may come up or violence issues. And so they’re there to support the students in that way.

Leanne: So, so give me a little bit of background information on how do you select, train and fund these different counselors, you’ve mentioned several different counselors or specialists so how do you select them and train them and even pay for them?

Ray: Very good question. In regards to selecting them, the process is we work with the human resources department, we make sure that we have an appropriate job description and we get input on that with HR department so that we are looking for the right person with the right qualities to support our students. So that’s a really important process to begin with so that you can get the right person, that job description. Then it goes through the HR process in which it’s advertised, flow in and then we do interviews so that we can collect, have a collaborative effort in getting the right person. So that’s one way and how do we fund it? It’s usually through Title 1 and or the LCAP which is a very important process and document in regards to not only getting people, but also your LCAP and we should participate either directly or indirectly. And what I mean by indirectly, your boss is on the LCAP committee you work through them, but if you can get on it, that’s even better because then you can push to get things that you need, you know you need, the resources and get it into the LCAP budget.

Leanne: Okay, so with all of these interventions, and the school site liaisons, aka counselors for you, what’ve you seen as positive and results? (35:56)

Ray: Okay, I think some positive things, and fairly recently as, if we were to look at the California Dashboard, there some things going in there that’ve been reported as positives for instance when it comes to college and career and in particular focusing on homeless youth they grew 12.3 percent this last year. They grew 12.3 percent to 36.8 percent of the homeless students are college and career ready by the time they leave. And for all students in our district its 42.5. So, obviously, we are making progress in that area, and that’s a good thing. We want to continue to grow.

In addition, the graduation rate, for the homeless population in our graduation rate was 80 percent. For all students its 85 percent. So of course we want to continue to grow with that, but I think we’re making good progress with that. In regards to discipline and suspensions for the homeless population the suspension dropped 2.6 percent this year so that was a good, positive outcome to some interventions that some of our counselors in particular, our student intervention specialists in alignment with alternative to suspensions I think that’s a result of that.

I think that some of the highlights that we’re starting to see. Leanne: and then Ray, my last question would be, are there any recommendations that you would make to other liaisons around California how to implement this what to do to make this as successful as what you have done?

Ray: Um, it’s a journey and if you’re new to the job you’re going to have to build, it’s not going to happen in one day, one month, one year, but you keep building on everything and you keep pushing. It’s about looking at a cycle of constant evaluation and improvement and never being satisfied with what you have because until nobody is homeless you know we have to keep getting better at this. But really the keys are building relationships on campus and off campus. This will allow you to support your homeless youth better. And on campus it’s about knowing your resources and who has them, where can you get the things your kids need as you come into contact with them and families. And then get it to them quickly and easily so you gotta know your local resources on campus. Off campus, you need to, once again its about building relationships you gotta reach out. You need to reach out to your behavior heath agencies, your other community based organizations. In our area we utilize quite heavily Ventura County behavioral health. There’s other programs, agencies out there called Clinicas, City Impact, Amarillo Hospice, Interface, that’s just a few of them and those highs are allowing us to bring not only are they access to referrals for off campus, but we’re getting through the relationships to get them to come on campus and get the services on the campuses themselves which is a big win right there because sometimes when you refer off campus they never get there. So the more that you can bring on your campus the better off you’re gonna serve those students. So building relationships is really, really key. Knowing your resources as much as possible, having them on your desk (inaudible) parents need housing, Cal-works, Cal-fresh, your local pantries, all those things are important to have at the tip of your fingers as you deal with families.

Alexis: Ray I have just two follow up questions that I want to make sure you hit and share with um participants today. So first, can you just go back and tell us a little bit more about your role in the district and your history in this district?

Ray: Sure, fortunately I’ve been with the district quite a while, all in different capacities. Oh, probably 22, 23 years now. But I’ve been a teacher, a coach with extra-curricular activities, I’ve been an assistant principal and I’ve been a principal and now for about 5 years now here at the district level. And so, fortunately I have a really good understanding of the system of the school and all the different levels of it so that helps a lot. Um, and, what also the other part of the question, I’m sorry?

Alexis: Just in terms of your current role, what is the full range of responsibilities you currently have?

Ray: So, um, I am responsible for training of all the staff that come into contact with our homeless youth. And um, and then of course, if there’s turn over, training new people. I myself try to keep up with everything by going to conferences, pardon me (pause) sorry for that, I am, keep up with everything by going to conferences, I work really closely with our local agency Ventura County Office of Education, as numerous staff developments are through there I go myself as well as getting key staff from the sites to go to those trainings. And then of course, I provide training directly to the sites and staff members that way. That’s one of them, transportation is one my responsibility, um anything related to homeless youth that’s my responsibility as mentioned earlier this is only, one hat I wear though in the day. I do a lot of other things.

Leanne: Ray, we just got a question about talking about transportation. Um, we have somebody who is dealing with chronic absenteeism. What are some of your, you know, innovative ideas around transportation? Getting kids to school on time ready to learn?

Ray: this is a big issue, depending on what is going on with the kid. Transportation first off, is using the most cost effective way that you can, because we need to be good stewards of the resources too. So if it’s city bussing and it’s reasonable, then that’s what we use. If it’s not because the student is, to maintain school of origin, is coming from quite a distance, then we do provide a vendor to go pick them up and bring them. So, those are some of the ways we deal with the transportation. In regards to the attendance issue I heard if it’s just for transportation, then once you remove that barrier that should take care of their attendance. But if there’s other issues and we mentioned earlier that we have social emotional support and things like that, you need to ask the why question. You may need to do a student study team meeting and have the key people around the table for that and determine, why is the student missing because it may be other than transportation. And then once you get to that why question, then you can throw your supports and services and your interventions at that. For instance, over the years we’ve definitely had lots of cases related to bereavement was the issue, and not the homelessness or the transportation related to homelessness. It was really a bigger issue there, so we took care of the transportation and the counseling related to bereavement and then things got better.

Alexis: Ray one more point that I just had a question about that I want to make sure that you addressed, you mentioned that your role includes training school personnel, and I just wanted to, it sounds like you rely on a team of counselors at each campus, you mention, general counselors, special programs counselors and student intervention specialists, how do you train that team, are they all together, independently, can you just tell us a little bit more about the training piece for those teams?

Ray: Sure, when we send them to key pieces of training at the county level its whenever that’s available because they’re always advertising things and I’m always watching out for it and its “oh this would be good for them” and then I send it out and we get them there. The stuff that I provide directly, we have monthly all counselor meetings and so when I have those meetings I can get specific training done at that time. In regards to training too, one thing I want to talk about for the liaison is and we mentioned transportation too, you gotta build systems. And you gotta have your key people at the finger tips so you can get it done quickly. For instance, we’re talking about transportation. I’ve created forms so that we can have a real smooth system, the site can send me the form with the information on it. I can get a hold of the business department, I can get a hold of the transportation coordinator and within a fairly quick time we can get that transportation going. It didn’t happen overnight, it was trial and error and we made some mistakes, and then we figured it out and made it a lot smoother with a little bit of time.

Leanne: Ray, I cannot thank you enough for being a part of this webinar. We’ve spent a lot of time prepping for this between Patricia, Alexis, myself and Ray. All the time and energy you have put into this, I really appreciate it. We’re going to step into questions now. We have about ten minutes I believe for some questions. A lot of the questions that I have been receiving are more general questions about homeless education. I’m getting a lot of ‘Thank you, Ray’, ‘nice job’ and so Karmina and I are going to switch over and I’m going to look at her computer as she mans my computer. If you have questions specific to this webinar please don’t hesitate to go ahead and put them into your text box on the right hand side of the WebEx and we will answer as many as we can. So, a couple of the questions that I’ve already answered we talked about transitional housing being, is it considered a homeless situation? Well it’s a really case by case situation when it comes to identification of homeless children and youth. You really have to look at that definition and look at the fixed, regular, and adequate night time residency typically transitional housing programs we still consider them to be in a homeless situation because they, um the parents or the guardians they have to abide by certain requirements and eligibility requirements and so you don’t necessarily know how long they’re going to be there. But like I said it’s a case by case situation, I recommend that you reach out to your district liaison or your county liaison as Ray mentioned earlier it’s all about relationships and it’s not only the relationships to the kids and to the families but it’s also to your higher ups and to your resources out in the community.

So, I have a question here that talks about what’s the, students with, uh it’s moving so fast, the students that have been relate, um displaced due to the fires, related like to the Camp fire how long will they be considered homeless? Well there’s no time frame with homelessness, if they’re still living in a doubled up situation or in a makeshift garage their still considered homeless. Now if they’re in a permanent placement and then you would consider them um a non-homeless student, but remember if they become permanently housed during the school year, they have the rights to stay in that school of origin ‘til the end of the academic school year and receive all services and if they’re a high schooler and they want to continue in that school of origin then they have that right to do so as well.

Um, I find smaller districts will flat out say that they cannot provide transportation outside of city schools, city bus passes. Is that okay for a district to do? No, it isn’t. They, every school district is required to remove any educational barrier and that is including transportation. So, they can, they need to work with the family, they need to work with the youth. If city busses is a good possibility, then definitely fine, but if that doesn’t work for that family or that youth then you might have to look at alternative ways. You can reimburse parents, you can, if you’re in a small, rural area you could possibly open up a purchase order with a local gas station, or provide gas cards to the family or the youth. So we really want to try to think outside the box when it comes to transportation.

It says, Ray, does Ray, this is a question for you. Ray, do you have processes and procedures on relationships between the site and the district liaison available to share that includes an image of the structures, documents, etc.

Ray: That’s a good question, um, I don’t have like a flow chart per say, like from me to them. It’s been based on when I got here the relationships and then since then meeting with them on a regular basis and (inaudible) and building that comfort level with them to be able to ask me a question at any time, whether a phone call, email or text.

Leanne: Well maybe Ray, if you have any samples of your training materials, or any of your, any of that if you would like to forward that to me and Alexis and Patricia we can certainly send it out um, through our listserv.

Ray: I sure can, I can send you what we use for AB 1806, I can send you our transportation form that sites send to us to get it started, the process.

Leanne: Okay. So Patricia, this question’s for you (laughs). Are you still there?

Patricia: I feel like I’m going to wish I weren’t. (laughter) But I am, yes, I am I’m here.

Leanne: Oh I just, I can’t, let me just scroll up here. And I, how do I, huh, oh, okay. So, if somebody is couch surfing for four years are they still considered to be homeless? And at what point does it become a ch-life choice or doesn’t it.

Patricia: So, for that one um, and I think you may have said this a minute ago Leanne, there’s no time limit on homelessness in the McKinney-Vento Act. There’s actually no reference to time really at all, so what we are looking at is the living situation- fixed, regular and adequate. So there are some doubled up situations that I’ve seen, not many, but I have seen a time, let’s say I lose my job, I lose my house, I have to move back in with my mom and then over time it turns out that my mom has some health needs and I’m able to help her out with her health needs, she’s able to help me out with my child care needs. You know I have a room in the house, my child has a room in the house and over time we decide, ‘this is actually working out pretty fine’, ‘we’re going to do this’, this is going to be, you know this is, a fixed, regular and adequate residence for all us, we’re going to stick with this for a while. So that might transition from something that initially was sharing housing due to loss of housing and economic hardship, or similar reason and later became something stable. Um however, if the living situation can continue to be in-adequate, so I’m on a coach, I’m in a garage, I’m on you know the living room floor, um, if I continue to be there sort of at the mercy of the person I’m staying with, that at any time they’re just going to kick me out because they don’t want me there any longer. You know, if the living situation continues to be not fixed, regular and adequate, then that can continue to be a homeless situation for years and we’ve actually seen, since the last recession, back in 2007, we’ve seen homeless situations tending to go on for longer, longer and longer periods of time because of people are having a hard time getting jobs that pay a wage that allows them to actually get their own stable housing. So my answer to the question is really, it’s a case by case situation, I think it’s not unusual at all unfortunately for couch surfing to go on for multiple years and to continue to be a homeless situation. I guess the only thing I would say is um, you know, it’s very likely that, that will still continue to be a homeless situation over multiple years, there might come a time where the best interest determination about that child staying in their school of origin versus going to a local school, there might come a time when that best interest might flip, so maybe the student could, it would be easier for the student to participate in extracurricular activities if they went to the local school, they might be at a natural change in schools, so their changing from junior high to high school or something so it wouldn’t be so disruptive. So, you know I have seen some, definitely seen some situations where over a period of time the best interest situation switches and the LEA and the parent even agree and say ‘yeah, we’re gonna switch over to the local school now’.

Leanne: Awesome. So, I’m going to answer this question and then Patricia I might want you to weigh in. It says, “if a family is not, is being honest regarding their homeless situation in order to enroll at a particular school site, what are our rights as LEAs to investigate?” Well, basically what you want to do is, you want to uphold the intention of the law and be legally bound to the law. Where you need to enroll the student immediately, even if you do not think that they’re homeless and then st-or ask them to go back to their school of origin, and if you really know that they’re not homeless, they’re being dishonest then you start the dispute resolution process. Under ESSA it has now given, kind of school districts the opportunity to um, start their own dispute resolution process and indicate why they do not believe that a student or a family is homeless or not eligible. I do have to say, it’s just like going through anything whether it’s an audit, or a divorce, or anything legally bound you want to have documentation. So you start that process, letting the parents know that you’re starting the process, because you don’t feel that their eligible and that they then have the right to appeal this to the county, that’s California’s law, you go to the county and then you go to the state. You give them a time limit to appeal, and you also make sure that the child is in school, enrolled, participating fully throughout the whole process of the appeal. Did I miss anything, Patricia?

Patricia: No, I don’t think so. I’m trying to put in the little Q and A box a resource from NCHE on confirming eligibility that’s really good, um I’m having a little trouble getting it into the box there so I might just email it to Karmina and maybe you can help me with my technical logical difficulties here.

Alexis: Given these questions about eligibility I think this actually leads to a good question for Ray. Ray and this also relates to a question we saw in the chat, “if you have school site liaisons, so it’s anyone on that team of counselors, who’s unsure about whether a family or student is eligible, so maybe there’s a gray area situation what has been your practice in terms of how the school site liaison should handle those question marks and then similarly, it you’re not sure about a situation, you know where do you go, or what do you do to clarify the situation? (57:06)

Ray: Okay, um really it’s about a team process again, in the sense that we tell them don’t be on an island by yourself when you’re in a gray area, contact us and that’s what we do. They get a hold of me, I hear what they have to say, we review what does the law say? And then we make a determination together. If for some reason I’m still stumped, then I get a hold of the county people at the county agency, at that level and we talk about it and very rarely, between all of us can we not get a ruling on that.

Alexis: Thanks.

Leanne: You know, looking at these questions and I know we only have a minute left, um, looking at these questions, it brings up the, the notion that I’m going to have to do just a McKinney Vento 101 on eligibility, enrollment and identification. So that, I’ll put that on my to-do list. Last, but not least with just a few minutes left, I want to just, show you the last um, slide which gives you our wonderful pictures, especially Alexis and Patricia, they look beautiful. Our contact information, and our emails and phone numbers. If you have further questions don’t hesitate to call any of us. General questions for homeless education can obviously go through any of the three of us, um through email, I think is always best because then you have that support and on behalf of the California Department of Education, I’d like to thank you for your time and energy this hour. I hope it’s been helpful and we will be sending more information out as we get the questions and the answers to your questions. Alexis and Patricia would you like to end with anything?

Alexis: No, just to say thank you so much, Leanne for helping you know facilitate, organize us. I’m happy to participate.

Patricia: I agree, thanks for your leadership, Leanne.

Leanne: and I have to say thank you to all of you, including Ray, you are amazing. Relationships, it’s all about relationships everybody and meeting the kids with where they are. So have a wonderful day and we will be in touch soon. Thank you.

Questions: Leanne Wheeler | HOMELESSED@cde.ca.gov | 866-856-8214 
Last Reviewed: Friday, January 10, 2020
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