ISBE Issues Final Rule Governing Dispute Resolution Procedures for Students Experiencing Homelessness

ISBE recently issued its Final Rule governing dispute resolution procedures for students asserting homeless status when seeking to enroll in school. It went into effect on February 5, 2024, and, as a final regulation, it has the force of law. The new Final Rule is incorporated at 23 Ill. Admin. Code 1.241.

The Final Rule, consistent with the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act (105 ILCS 45/1-1 et seq.) and the federal McKinney -Vento Education for Homeless Children Act (45 U.S.C. 11431-11435), emphasizes that a school district must enroll and provide all necessary services to a student who is asserting homeless status until the completion of all proceedings and appeals under the Regulations.

The Final Rule creates a multi-tiered process of hearings and appeals:

  1. Initial dispute resolution with the district’s homelessness liaison.
  2. If the liaison fails to resolve the dispute, the district must initiate the dispute resolution process by sending a letter to the parent/guardian as well as to the Regional Superintendent and State Homelessness Coordinator explaining the District’s position regarding the dispute.
  3. The dispute is then heard by an ombudsperson who conducts a hearing within strict timelines and issues a decision.
  4. That decision, in turn, may be appealed to the State Homelessness Coordinator, who issues a final determination.

While the Final Rules does not reference it, the governing statute provides for the right to file a civil lawsuit and to seek “appropriate relief.” Equally as significant, the statute allows for an award of attorneys’ fees when a person’s rights under the Act have been violated. 105 ILCS 45/1-25(b).

Residency and homelessness issues continue to impact school districts in multiple ways, given the complexity of the laws governing residency of general education students, students receiving special education services under Article 14, and homeless students. Contact Jennifer Rosenberg or another attorney in our Students/Special Ed practice group with your inquiries or to request an in-service for school personnel who are managing your student registration process in a complex legal environment.