The state Department of Education agreed in a lawsuit involving the Carlynton School District that schools must enroll homeless children with a “substantial connection” to their district even if the children sleep in another district.
The Education Law Center sued the district after the state said Carlynton wasn’t legally required to enroll four children whose parents were using a Crafton day shelter as their home address.
Operated by the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the shelter provides homeless families with a place to store belongings and receive mail while churches in the network take turns providing families with sleeping space.
Consequently, the family was sleeping in a different location each week.
Nancy Hubley, the Education Law Center attorney who represented the family, said the settlement being finalized in court today is an important victory for homeless families across the state.
“The economic crisis has forced many Pennsylvania families out of their homes, but it should not force children out of school,” she said.
Carlynton Superintendent Michael Panza said the district never sought to kick the students out but was simply seeking a ruling on its obligations.
“Day shelters were new. We wanted a clarification,” he said.
As part of the settlement, the district notified the church network it will enroll any children whose families use the day center, Panza said.
The attorney for the Education Department couldn’t be reached for comment. Hubley said the state agreed in the settlement to rescind its previous ruling that Carlynton wasn’t obligated to educate the children.
The department issued a notice to all districts in February making it clear they’re required to provide school services for children connected to day shelters or similar facilities, she said.