Mentions of Homelessness

A British Columbia high school Family and Society course curriculum listed “homeless” as an “example” of types of “living arrangements.”

The BC School Act uses a typical address-based definition of a ‘resident’ and considers this residency at the time of enrolment. Therefore, the students’ current or recent residence is what determines the district for which they earn the right to enrol:

a person is entitled to enrol in an educational program provided by the board of a school district if the person (a) is of school age, and (b) is resident in that school district.”

The Vancouver School Board’s Administrative Procedures Manual provides the following conditions of enrolment:

“All persons of school age who are resident within the boundaries of the District, and whose parents/guardian(s) are ordinarily resident in British Columbia, are entitled to enroll in an educational program provided by the District.”

Place of Residence is defined as:

“Legal address of the dwelling in which the parent or guardian maintains his/her home and where the student ordinarily resides. For the purpose of enrollment a student’s residency is determined as of the submission date of the application to enroll.”

This could be problem if location changes, since residence determines priority for getting into right district of school, and since only residents are entitled to school at all. But what if you can’t prove you’re a resident?

Punishment for Absences

British Columbia education policy is exceptional, in its lack of suggestions to punish absences. This is very different from the rest of the provinces/territories. Unlike other provincial and territorial Education Acts and equivalents, the BC School Act does not explicitly say students are responsible for attending school. This may be influenced, and is certainly reflected, by the BC Youth In Care cross-ministry “guidelines” for child welfare workers and school staff co-written by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, originally published in 2008, which does not discuss homelessness but discusses closely homelessness-related issues:

“significant transitions for children and youth in care, including changing living arrangements, coming into foster care, or moving to a different school. The guidelines also apply to children and youth in care who have not recently experienced transition, but perhaps experience periods of increased vulnerability and difficulty as they grow and mature. For example, some children and youth in care might be experiencing mental health challenges related to trauma they have experienced.”

The document advises personnel to:

“Find alternatives to suspension and expulsions to keep students connected to the school community and supports they require. Organizing a quiet and calm place where students could go and do school work with a supervising teacher and peer mentors, can help.

This approach starkly contrasts with otherwise normal approaches to absence in the rest of Canada, which are punitive and reactive rather than understanding and proactive, the latter of which are more conducive to school-based prevention of youth homelessness. BC’s attendance policies and lack thereof provide better foundations on which to build homelessness-prevention attendance policies than other provinces’ or territories’.