Trying to get homeless youth back in the classroom - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Trying to get homeless youth back in the classroom

Posted: Updated:

PASCO, Wash.—Chances are you know someone who has been affected by homeless.  It's a growing problem that often goes unseen even here in the Tri-Cities.  About 600 children and youth are homeless right now in the Tri-Cities and many of them aren't in school because of their situation.  Now ESD 123 and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction are teaming up to bring the issue into the open.

"Schoolwork is your low priority when you're looking at where am I going to sleep night," says Christina Sockwell, Kennewick School District Liaison.

"One of the biggest predictors of their life, of them being successful in life, is them having an education," says Diane Shepard, Director of Prevention Treatment.

Hundreds of local children, including preschool kids, dropout of school because of their home life.

"As of last week I had a case load of 287 students," says Sockwell.

Educators say homeless youth deserve the same education as students with a home, and it's the state law.

"The McKinney Vento law is a law that afford kids who are identified as homeless, to have the same rights as any other kid that is attending public education," says Shepard.

The McKinney Vento Act state, "Each state educational agency shall ensure that each child of a homeless individual and each homeless youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths."

Educators say most people don't know about the law, and that's a problem.  By bringing awareness, they hope the community will start talking.


"It takes everybody to work on this issue of homelessness, and if the community understand the law better, they're going to be able to work with the school district better," says Shepard.

Each school district has a liaison that will help a homeless youth to either get back in school or overcome barriers so they can continue with their education.  If you know of a child or teen who is homeless and out of school, contact your local school district.