Indiana education officials want to shine a spotlight on the issues homeless Hoosiers face, and the state has made moves to improve information and advance the conversation for how best to serve homeless students in schools.
The focus on homelessness this week involved a meeting in Indianapolis of around 900 school liaisons, superintendents, and other education professionals, specifically, to talk about homeless children and youth. It's the first year the state has offered a training of this magnitude on homeless children and youth, due to new federal education law.
Merrillville Schools’ Danny Lackey was there, and he says there are plenty of details to unpack around the issue, even outside of schools.
“I think there’s a lot of bias, misinformation, assumptions, and stereotypes about people who are homeless," Lackey says.
Lackey says he sees the conference as an opportunity for professionals to share ideas and better serve those students.
Department of Education homeless education coordinator, Deepali Jani, also says increased awareness in schools can help homeless students succeed.
“We work on removing barriers so they can have some type of normal life, throughout the schooling that they get,” Jani says.
Jani says she aims to help those students graduate, especially since they move schools often and that can contribute to several other hardships they already face.
Lawmakers also passed a bill this year, to improve data around foster care and homeless children, including things like pre-K enrollment, graduation and suspension or expulsion rates.