Education Rights when Housing Insecure (Youth & Young Adult Legal Issues Edition)


By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)

You have special rights and resources if you are in school and homeless or at risk of being homeless.
Resource Information

What is considered housing insecure?

 To qualify, you must be:

  • Living with friends or relatives (with or without parents/guardians);
  • Staying in hotels/motels;
  • Living in trailer parks/campgrounds;
  • Staying in shelters or transitional housing; or
  • Sleeping in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, or similar settings.

What if I have run away from home?

Runaway and unaccompanied youth (those not living in the physical custody of a parent or guardian) are covered under the McKinney-Vento Act. Even if you go to enroll yourself in school without an adult present, the school must immediately enroll and provide you with all the other services covered in the law.

More information and a list of McKinney-Veto advocates for each school district in the state can be found on MontanaLawHelp.org.

The law requires all public schools to provide you:

  • School choice based on the last school attended or neighborhood you are currently in;
  • Immediate enrollment even if you do not have your documents or someone to sign for you;
  • Free breakfast & lunch;
  • Free transportation within 60 miles/60 minutes;
  • An advocate who works for you; and
  • And other benefits that may help you to succeed.

Additional information on your educational rights in Montana is avaliable through the Office of Public Instruction.

How can the law work for me?

Our communities and school districts want to see you graduate and go on to do great things, whatever your goals may me. Many students across our state live with housing instability for many different reasons, but there are laws, programs, and people dedicated to supporting you.

Take Action

Legal Help

  • Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) provides free civil, non-criminal legal help to eligible clients. Apply for free legal help by calling 1-800-666-6899 or applying online.
  • Tribal communities may have different rules for accessing education. If you are a tribal member living in a tribal community, contact MLSA to apply for free legal help on your specific situation at 1-800-666-6899 or by applying online.
  • Contact your nearest Self Help Law Center for free legal information and forms.

Non-Legal Resources

  • The Youth Homelessness Development Project (YHDP) is designed to support Montana service providers in the development and implementation of a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness. More information is avaliable at the YHDP website.
  • County resource guides provide an up-to-date list of avaliable help centers.

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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