Homeless couple says school won't enroll 10-year-old boy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville couple says they're homeless and having a hard time getting their child enrolled in school, now they want to know why.

They say the School Board says the child should be enrolled, but the couple says the child's school won't do it.

"We just had problems from Day One," said Ashley, who's engaged to the 10-year-old's father.

She said after the boy moved from Georgia to Jacksonville over the holidays, she and the child's father became homeless.

"I lost my job and I've had to stay with some family and friends," Ashley said. "We're trying to get back on our feet, and I don't think a child should suffer because of the parents trying to get on their feet."

Ashley said she explained her situation to the school district last week to see if she could enroll the boy. She said according to a letter from the district dated Jan. 9, based on the McKinney Vento Act, the boy is considered homeless and should be enrolled immediately.

But Ashley said that's not the response she gets from Carter G. Woodson Elementary School. Since Thursday, Ashley said she and the child's father have been unsuccessful getting the boy enrolled.

"The principal is never available to speak to us," she said. "We've asked to speak to her multiple times, but the woman in the office, Ms. Thomas, says that she's not available and she is not going to enroll him until we speak with the principal."

"Who's in control? Is it the school board or the school?" she added.

The school district says because of the Family Education Rights Privacy Act, it cannot comment on this particular issue. However, the district explained the process of getting a homeless child enrolled.

The district said the law requires Duval County schools to serve homeless students. There are 1,240 homeless students in Duval County.

Only a custodial parent or a legal guardian can enroll a homeless student.

If there is a question at a school regarding eligibility under the McKinney Vento Act, the parent is referred to the district office to meet with a homeless education social worker to determine eligibility. If the student is determined eligible, the parent or guardian is given a letter, and at that point the custodial parent can go back to the school and enroll their child with the documentation.

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