The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently released Bulletin 787. Bulletin 787 establishes LAUSD protocols for meeting the unique needs of students placed in out-of-home care. In particular, Bulletin 787 delineates LAUSD protocols for the implementation of AB 490 as well as policies and practices to ensure that the unique educational needs of foster and probation youth attending LAUSD schools are met. Bulletin 787 is the culmination of almost two years of on-going collaboration between LAUSD, the Children’s Law Center and others in a joint-effort to improve educational outcomes for foster and probation youth. The key elements of the bulletin are described below.
School-Site Foster Care (AB 490) Advocate: Each principal shall designate a full-time, certified, school-site person as the School-Site Foster Care (AB 490) Advocate. This person shall be knowledgeable about the policies and procedures related to children in out-of-home care, assist with the implementation of AB 490, and coordinate the efforts of LAUSD and county agencies in serving foster youth. (Section III, p.3)
School of Origin: Children are to remain in the school of origin when it is in their best-interest, even if their residence changes out of the area served by that school. (Section II(b), p.2)
Immediate Enrollment: When a change of school occurs, foster and probation youth shall be immediately enrolled in the new school, regardless of the availability of immunization records, school records, school uniforms, or the existence of outstanding fines from a prior school. (Section IV (A), p.3)
Record Transfer: Consistent with AB 490, the student’s cumulative records, including the check-out grades, IEP, and other special education information shall be sent to the receiving school (new school) within two business days of the receiving school’s written or oral request. (Section II (D), p.2)
Withdrawal/Check-Out Procedures: When a change in school results, the school-site foster care advocate shall: (1) verify that each teacher has correctly calculated the student’s grades; (2) monitor the posting of final grades, including partial credits and the entry of the closing information in the cumulative file; (3) request that the caregiver return all library and textbooks to the school – the caregiver has the responsibility for the payment of fines; and (4) ensure that requested records are not withheld from the requesting school or school district b/c of any charges owed by the student, caregiver, or parent. Finally, the foster care advocate is responsible for ensuring partial-credits and grades earned from a prior school are calculated. When a student transfers during the semester, the foster care advocate is responsible for ensuring that the teacher accurately calculates the credits and earned during the period of attendance. (Section VI, pp9-11)
Calculation of Credits and Grades: Credits and grades shall be determined as of the student’s last day of actual attendance. There shall be no reduction in grades due to absences associated with the student’s change in placement or verified presence at court or other court-mandated activity. (Section VI, p.10)
Grade Placement: Students who do not have school records shall be placed in the most appropriate placement possible based on information from the student and caregiver. Placement is tentative until records can be obtained and evaluated. (Section IV (C), p.4; Section V (B)(1)(b), p.7; Section V (C)(1)(b), p.7)
Partial Credits: If a student enrolls at the beginning of the semester and has partial credits (fewer than 5 credits) in any course from the previous semester, every attempt must be made to assist him/her with completing the course(s) to receive full-credit. If a student enrolls after the start of the semester, the student’s course mark and partial credits from the former school shall be included in the final mark for the course. (Section V(C)(3), p.8; Section V (D), p.8; Section V(E)(2), p.9)
Progress Towards Graduation: The foster care advocate or a designee shall review the student’s transcripts (including partial credits earned), assessments, etc to determine the student’s progress toward meeting graduation requirements. The student’s progress towards meeting graduation requirements will be the most important determinant for placement in courses. If the student does not have his/her school records, the School Site Foster Care Advocate or designee shall contact the previous school to obtain them. (Section V(E)(1), p.8)
Release of School Records: Bulletin 787 suggests that release of confidential school records occur only upon receipt of a subpoena, a Superior Court Order (minute order), or authorization from the person holding educational rights. (Section VII (B), p.12)
Dispute Resolution: Dispute resolution regarding enrollment or other educational issues is the responsibility of the principal. The principal may, however, defer to other LAUSD officials. (Section III (C), p.3)
Pregnant and Parenting Students: Pregnant and parenting students are entitled to be treated the same as other students, have access to the same resources, and have their health and personal information kept confidential. (Section IV (G), p.5)
Runaway/AWOL Students: If an out-of-home care student has been absent from school for three days AND the caregiver or CSW indicates that the student is no longer at, and will not be returning to, the placement, the student will be checked out of school. (Section VII, p.11)
Educational Services: Out of home students are entitled to access the same resources as any other student. The foster care advocate and school personnel shall provide the student and caregiver with information regarding educational services (i.e. tutoring, after school activities, etc) available at the school site. (Section IV, (C)(4), p.4; Section V(D)(3), p.8; Section V(E)(3), p.9)
Assistance: Contact Deirdre Skelton, LAUSD Homeless Education Coordinator, at (213) 745-1973 for assistance with enrollment issues (including transportation) when the child is “awaiting foster care placement” and qualifies as “homeless” pursuant to McKinney-Vento. (Section IV(F), p.5). Contact Norma Sturgis, Coordinator of the Foster Care Unit at (213) 241-3848 with any questions or problems regarding implementation of AB 490 and Bulletin 787.