The Cleveland School District recognizes that children do not control their social conditions and therefore it strives to ensure that each child has what he needs to achieve academically.
According to standards outlined by the state, the Cleveland School District has a significantly high homeless rate.
"Homeless is a very broad definition — we are not just talking about children that are out on the streets. If two single mothers decide to move in together, then they both are considered homeless," said Brenda Ellis, parent liaison and assistant superintendent.
Ellis said that the Cleveland School District usually determines whether or not a child is homeless during the registration process.
"When parents come in to register children, they must provide two proofs of residency and if they don’t have those two proofs of residency because they are staying with someone, then we don’t investigate it further. We choose not to further investigate because they are automatically classified as being homeless," Ellis said.
Mississippi utilizes standards outlined in the McKinney-Vento Act to determine whether or not a child is deemed or considered homeless.
Homeless children according to the act includes children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reason; living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations; living in emergency or transitional shelters; abandoned in hospitals; or awaiting foster care placement.
Ellis said she came across a child whose mother was on drugs, his father was incarcerated and he lived with his grandmother.
According to federal regulations, the child was considered to be an unaccompanied youth, which is considered homeless.
Ellis said the Cleveland School District provides homeless students with supplies, uniforms, transportation, personal hygiene items and tutoring services.
These services are funded through Title I and Homelessness grant programs.
Due to regulations outlined by Mississippi, these services may be provided through programs on school grounds or at other facilities; and these programs and services shall not replace the regular academic program and shall be designed to expand upon or improve services provided as part of the school's regular academic programs.
Ellis said that Hurricane Katrina caused an influx of what the state describes as homeless students to migrate into the district.
"We were more than happy to service the students but we were unable to receive their school records," Ellis continued.
"In this case, we could only use information that the parent had on them when they evacuated. For the most part, all of the school records had been destroyed. We had to literally take the parent's word and try to find placement for the children," she said.
The district also used placement test, age and physical size to determine an appropriate placement for the children.
"The placement of children is considered and reviewed by the Placement Review Committee. We do not require children to have any records because sometimes it is hard for them or their caregivers to obtain records," said Ellis.
"By law, any child has the right to attend school — they cannot be discriminated against," she added.