Research News

Underwood's latest 'Under the Law' column examines protection for homeless students

November 29, 2016

Julie Underwood’s latest “Under the Law” column was published in the November issue of Phi Delta Kappan magazine. The column is about recent expanded support for homeless students in the law.

Underwood is a professor of law and educational leadership and policy analysis at UW-Madison, and the former dean of the School of Education.

Julie Underwood
In 1987, Congress enacted the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to ensure homeless students could access education. School districts must review programs, policies and practices to make sure they don’t cause educational access barriers for homeless students. If existing practices do cause barriers, districts must actively work to revise the practice or accommodate the homeless students around the barrier.

The Act has been amended many times since it was originally passed. Recent changes focus on serving unaccompanied students, identifying preschool-aged homeless children and helping homeless high school students acquire credits towards graduation.

Underwood acknowledges limitations by writing: “Public schools cannot provide for all the needs of a homeless student. The federal laws are intended to provide guidance for ensuring that public schools can make a difference in the daily lives and future of homeless students by improving the education they receive.”

To find Underwood’s “Under the Law” column, visit the Phi Delta Kappan home page each month for links to articles within the most current issue.