Immunization Documentation for Homeless or Displaced Students

In 2002, the federal government passed the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which allows homeless students to enroll in school without the standard immunization and medical record documentation.

Download PDF version formatted for print: Immunization Documentation for Homeless Students (PDF: 50KB/3 pages)

On this page:
Summary and Requirement of Federal Law
Frequently Asked Questions
Technical Assistance

Summary and Requirement of Federal Law

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (Subtitle B — Education for Homeless Children and Youth), reauthorized in January of 2002, ensures the educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. Parents or guardians who are homeless may choose to enroll their children (or, unaccompanied youth may choose to enroll) in the public school in the attendance area where they are living (or may continue in their school of origin, if feasible). However, families and youth experiencing homelessness often do not have the documents ordinarily required for school enrollment. Immediately enrolling students from homeless situations in school provides stability and avoids separating children from school for days or weeks while documents are located.

Therefore the McKinney-Vento Act requires:

  • All local school districts to immediately enroll students in homeless situations, even if they do not have required documents, such as immunization or medical records (also school records, proof of residency, other documents). The term "enroll" is defined under the Act as attending classes and participating fully in school activities.

  • All enrolling schools to obtain school records from the previous school. Students must be enrolled in school while records are obtained. (The state law, M.S. 121A.15, which says that a school may allow up to 30 days for a student to submit their immunization records does not apply to this federal law. There is no 30-day limit on submitting records for a homeless student. Federal law supercedes this state law.)

  • The local school district's homeless liaison (McKinney-Vento Act also requires all school districts to appoint a liaison for homeless students), to immediately assist in obtaining immunizations or immunization or medical records for those students who do not have them. Students must be enrolled in school during the interim, this includes unaccompanied youth.

  • A school to provide a written explanation of its decision to deny enrollment to a homeless student, including enrollment denied because of immunization or medical records. The parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth has the right to appeal to the Program State Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education if a student is denied enrollment or sent to a school other than that requested by a parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is considered a Homeless child or youth?

Homeless children are those children who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes:

  • Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and
  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because the children are living in circumstances described above.

How do I document a child/youth's homeless status?

School and health officials may accept documentation that children are homeless from the local school district education liaisons (or their designees) or directors of shelters serving students experiencing homelessness. Documentation from the liaison or shelter director must include:

  • Child's name or a list of children's names,
  • Effective date(s) and
  • Signature and title of the liaison or director

School and health officials must work closely with the homeless education liaison and directors of shelters to ensure that children from homeless situations are provided immunizations or that immunization or health records are secured. Additionally, enrollment must not be affected for students experiencing homelessness because of lack of immunization or health records.

How can I obtain a student's health records and what do I do if I cannot obtain them?

If you know the student previously attended school, you can call that school and have their records sent over. Minnesota Statute Section 121A.15, Subd. 7 states that when a person transfers to another school the person having general control or supervision of the school shall assist the person's parent or guardian in the transfer of the immunization file to the person's new school.

Minnesota Statute Section 121A.15, Subd. 4 also allows schools to accept a substitute immunization statement. The statute says that a person who is enrolling or enrolled in a school may substitute a statement from the emancipated person or a parent or guardian if the person is a minor child in lieu of the statement from a physician or public health clinic which provides immunizations. If the statement is from a parent or guardian or emancipated person, the statement must indicate the month, day and year of each immunization given. The statute goes on to give specific information on what the statement must contain.

If a student's record cannot be found, the student will need to either restart their immunizations or have serological testing for immunity. Serological testing is available for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, varicella, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and polio.

Note: The law also allows a parent or guardian to claim a medical or philosophical exemption from immunizations. See M.S. 121A.15 subd. 3(c)(d)

If a student needs an immunization, where can I send them?

The Vaccines For Children (VFC) program is for students who do not have not have health insurance or whose insurance does not cover the cost of immunizations. Contact your local county public health department for information on this program and to find out where a student can go to get an immunization.

For students who have health insurance, refer them to their pediatrician or primary care provider.

Technical Assistance

For more information about children and youth experiencing homelessness, contact the school district homeless education liaison or Roberto Reyes, Minnesota Department of Education McKinney-Vento, Homeless Education Coordinator, or 651-582-8302.

For more information on immunizations and school immunization law requirements, call the Minnesota Immunization Program at 1-800-657-3970 or 651-201-5503 in the Twin Cities Metro Area.


Updated Monday, 15-Oct-2012 14:50:47 CDT