Education and Schools

Read this in: Spanish / Español
Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


Many school-age children are displaced by disasters. They have all the rights federal law gives to children who have lost housing or meet any other definition of "homeless."

Does my child count as homeless?

  • Yes, if you lost housing and are now staying with friends or with relatives.
  • Yes, if you are living:
    • in an emergency shelter
    • in a transitional shelter
    • in a motel
    • in a domestic violence shelter
    • in a campground
    • in a car
    • on the street
    • in public or abandoned buildings

I'm homeless. Where can my children go to school?

  • You have a choice.
  • If it is open, you can send your children back to the last school they attended.
  • Or, you can choose instead to have your children go to the local school where you are now staying.

What if I don't have all my children's papers?

  • You can enroll them right away.
  • They have a right to attend school while you help the school get proof of shots and any school records.
  • If your child is living with a caretaker, the school cannot require a guardianship.

Can my children ride the bus to school?

  • Yes. Your children have the same right to transportation any other children.

What if my children need special help in school?

  • Your children have the right to any services they need for them to learn in school.

Can they make my children go to a school or classroom for homeless children?

  • No. Your children have the right to go to school with children who are not homeless.
  • They have the right to be in classes that are not just for homeless children.

What about my preschool child?

  • Your preschool child has the same right to attend preschool as other children where you stay.

If the school will not take my child, who can I call?

  • First try complaining to principal or director. If that does not work, contact Iowa Legal Aid. You may have other options depending on your situation.

Can my child get free school meals?

  • Yes, your child may be able to get free or reduced priced lunch.

Where can I get more information?

·       Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 

·       To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:

o   call 800-532-1275

o   Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161


o   apply online at

·       If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, you can look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website –   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.

Last Review and Update: Aug 30, 2023
Back to top