Education is a right that all students deserve, but in reality, education is a privilege that not everyone has access to in the Bay Area. Notably, many young people who experience homelessness struggle to obtain an education due to their circumstances. Being homeless doesn’t necessarily mean students are sleeping on the streets. According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a student classified as homeless experiences a lack of a fixed regular and appropriate nighttime residence.
The McKinney-Vento, Homeless Assistance Act is a law put in place to help assist students experiencing homelessness. The law requires that state school systems allow the same opportunities for students experiencing homelessness as for students who are not. The act gives many rights to homeless students, including choosing their school of choice and being immediately enrolled in that school. The act ensures that all students have access to education regardless of their personal life. The issue then becomes whether the McKinney-Vento Act is utilized to its fullest potential.
Around 2,980 kids are experiencing homelessness in San Francisco, and according to a 2019 census, approximately 2,200 of them are in San Francisco public schools. Many of these students, though attending school, are finding their education challenging to obtain. Students experiencing homelessness are less likely to graduate, more likely to be chronically absent and have lower achievement. This brings a disadvantage to these students, many of whom have no control over their circumstances.
There are also mental and emotional tolls that students are experiencing homelessness face daily, such as sleep deprivation, poor hygiene, health issues, and behavioral issues that can develop. All of these issues disconnect students from classroom learning environments. Even if students can come to school, they may not be performing at their best level.
Schools must have a plan in place that puts students first in achieving educational goals. This includes intervening and ensuring that students experiencing homelessness are developing not only intellectually but almost more importantly, emotionally and socially. School is a place for students to learn math problems and reading comprehension and learn more about themselves. Giving these students a space to forget about what is going on in their own lives can improve their mental wellbeing.