Homeless Kids Win Injunction Against Montgomery County School System
Public Justice Center Press Release
August 11, 2004
For Further Information Contact: Francine K. Hahn, Esq. Public Justice Center 410-625-9409, ext. 234
For Immediate Release: Homeless Students Win Preliminary Injunction Against Montgomery County Public Schools
A federal court yesterday granted the request of homeless children in Montgomery County, represented by the Public Justice Center, for a preliminary injunction to allow them to stay with their classmates as they matriculate from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school. Montgomery County Public School officials had said the students must transfer to different Montgomery County schools -- the ones closest to the family's temporary living quarters -- which would have disrupted the student's continuity of schools, friends, and community. Yesterday's ruling upheld the right of 44 homeless children in the County to school continuity under the federal McKinney-Vento Act.
Children who have homes move with their classmates, as a group, from an elementary school to a particular middle school, and then to a particular high school . This "feeder system" fosters continuity in education and the child's community. In ruling against MCPS, Judge Deborah K. Chasanow ordered that the four children named in the court papers must be allowed to remain in their school of origin feeder systems as they enter high school and middle school this coming school year and that MCPS must provide free transportation. Judge Chasanow also ordered MCPS to immediately notify the remaining 40 matriculating homeless students of their right to remain in their school of origin feeder systems. Any of these students who request it will be permitted to matriculate to the next level school with their class mates from last year, and will be provided free transportation from their temporary address.
"This is a huge victory for homeless students in Montgomery County which we hope will reverberate throughout the state and beyond," said Francine Hahn of the Public Justice Center, lawyer for the students. "The Court recognized that school continuity includes things such as academic consistency and maintaining friendships. Tearing homeless children away from their familiar school environments simply because they happen to remain homeless when moving up to middle or high school is contrary to federal law."
"I'm excited that Sierra will be able to continue with her peers and not be burdened by the additional transportation issues. I believe the outcome of our victory will be a great high school career for Sierra," said Melody Reynolds, one of the parents present at yesterday's court hearing.
The lawsuit was initially filed as an individual case in March 2002. In that case, the court ordered MCPS to allow four children in one family to return to their Montgomery County schools even though they were residing temporarily in the District of Columbia. One of those children, Brandon Haynes, had been kept out of school all year by MCPS officials who said the McKinney Act did not apply to him. Since that time Brandon has graduated from high school with his peers and is now attending college. The case was made a class action in November 2002.