invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 3 MILLION kids are without homes. H-O-M-E-L-E-S-S Kids. I don't get it. Are we willing to discard these kids? Not me. So this blog will relentlessly focus on this issue, hoping to light a spark to fuel a compassion epidemic. Chime in, argue, but do something....

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Times are Tough--Too Bad!

Even people living under a rock have figured out times are tough. Well, not everyone. It appears that the powers-that-be in West Aurora (IL) School District 129 have decided to crack down on residency scofflaws, including what I'd bet my lunch money are homeless kids.

Seems like the relatively new superintendent wants to impress voters with his fiscal responsibility. So he's ordered a review of suspicious residency claims. OK so far.

But an indication of probable trouble appeared in the Aurora Beacon News last August in a story about a mom and her 2 kids who moved in with her parents after marital trouble.
(Read my blog from last August detailing this story.)

Now the district has
announced on their website a "residency tip line" to weed out non-residents. I understand the theory, and as a previous taxpayer in that district before I sold my home to pursue my HEAR US mission, I feel I can speak about this.

When untrained, and sometimes even trained, observers view a family's unconventional lifestyle, e.g. moving in with a family or friends, but sometimes popping in at their previous residence, it may appear that the family is up to something, especially if school-age kids are in the picture. And they may be trying to send kids to a better district.

Or they may be homeless, often times as a result of domestic violence, or severe marital problems. Typically, one parent and kids leave the hardship situation and move in with someone because they cannot afford their own place. Or they move into a motel, or combination of motels and doubling up.
I won't even go into the immigration issue which would send out vigilante posses faster than announcing free beer at a softball game.

So the district encourages anonymous reports of residency law violations. I've talked with many "professional" residency investigators who are absolutely clueless--or care less--about laws governing homeless students access to school, and who fail to make a good-faith attempt to rule out homelessness as they toss out the kids.
I can't even imagine the possibility for trouble with non-professionals, neighbors with an ax to grind??

I've talked to kids who reported being yanked from class in front of their peers, humiliated as they were forced to clear out their lockers in crowded hallways, and escorted off the property. And in every case I was involved in--hundreds--we were able to vindicate the family and restore their right to attend that school because of homelessness.

Many of these cases were "investigated" and others were results of anonymous reports.
School officials need to learn a lesson--about homelessness, a subject not taught in college nor typically covered in professional development. At the risk of sounding self-serving, HEAR US has several tools to raise awareness of homelessness. I do presentations to guide educators in the aspects of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act. And I offered my services to the West Aurora District, being told "we're handling it."

Seems to me that handling could be viewed as mauling, depending on what side of the desk you're on. That's a lesson that will stick with all who have to experience it.

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