Kaleuati v. tonda: Enforcing education rights of homeless children


In Kaleuati v. Tonda, plaintiffs seek enforcement of the federal McKinney-Vento Act against the State of Hawaii to ensure homeless children have free access to a public education.

For children living in shelters, on the beach, or without stable housing, access to education is an essential necessity to overcome poverty. Homeless children face a much greater difficulty accessing a meaningful education than other children because they have difficulty producing records -- such as proof of residence -- normally required for enrollment. Further, homeless children frequently move and have difficulty staying in one school. Stability of school placement is essential to meaningfuly learning as studies show that changing schools causes 4-6 months delay in education. School can be a stable force in a life filled with uncertainties.

The State of Hawaii receives federal funds, under the McKinney-Vento Act, to remove these barriers and provide school placement stability for homeless children. In return for these funds, Hawaii must (1) keep homeless children in their home school -- the school they were attending when they became homeless; (2) provide transportation to that home school, even if the children leave the geographic area of the home school in search of shelter; and (3) immediately enroll homeless children even if they lack documents normally required for enrollment.

Despite receiving federal monies, Hawaii schools are turning homeless children away at the school house door, forcing them to change school multiple times in a single year, and denying them basic transportation services necessary to attend. The net effect is that many homeless children in Hawaii are getting substandard education or no education at all.

Lawyers for Equal Justice represents three homeless families that have been denied access to education and, on behalf of all homeless families statewide. LEJ filed a class action lawsuit against the State of Hawaii in U.S. District Court, seeking statewide injunctive relief to remove policies that violate federal law and ensure that homeless children have full, meaningful access to a public education. A final settlement agreement resolved the case, with the state agreeing to provide transportation and remove barriers to enrollment and attendence of homeless children.



case developments

LEJ files Complaint in Kaleuati v. Tonda, Civ. No. 07-504, on Oct. 6, 2007.

LEJ files Motion for Class Certification, on Nov. 6, 2007, seeking to represent all school-aged homeless children to ensure relief to all affected persons.

LEJ files Motion for Injunction on Nov. 6, 2007, seeking immediate end to violative state policies to ensure homeless children can  immediately access education.

LEJ files Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Class Certification, Jan. 14, 2008.

Defendants file Memorandum in Opposition to Class Certification and Memorandum in Opposition to Preliminary Injunction, Jan. 24, 2008.

LEJ files Reply in Support of Class Certification and Reply in Support of Preliminary Injunction, Jan. 31, 2008.

February 11, 2008 at 10:30a. The Honorable Chief Judge Helen Gillmor certifies a class action and issues preliminary injunction.
Stipulated Dismissal and Settlement Agreement, Aug. 12, 2008

Press Releases

Complaint Filed, Oct. 6, 2007

Injunction Filed, Nov. 6, 2007

Injunction Hearing Media Advisory, Feb. 11, 2008

Preliminary Injunction Issued, Feb. 14, 2008

Resolution in Landmark Lawsuit, Aug. 12, 2008


Suit Puts 88 More Homeless in School, Star-Bulletin (Oct. 19, 2008)

LEJ Feature, Street Beat (Sept. 2008)

Homeless Students Can Ride Buses, Star-Bulletin (August 13, 2008)

Buses Required for Homeless Students, Honolulu Advertiser (August 13, 2008)

DOE Gets Deadline to Track Homeless, Star-Bulletin, follow up on written decision (Feb. 29, 2008)

Homeless Students Get Transportation,KHON, discussing preliminary injunction (Feb. 12, 2008)

Judge: State Must Do More for Homeless Kids, KITV, discussing preliminary injunction (Feb. 11, 2008)

Children Left Behind, Honolulu Weekly article discussing Kaleuati v. Tonda (Nov. 7, 2007)

Hawaii Violates Equal Access Law, Honolulu Advertiser Article discussing need for relief in Kaleuati v. Tonda (Nov. 7, 2007)

Radio program on HPR discussing Kaleuati v. Tonda, (Nov. 7 ,2007)

KITV, Attorneys Sue DOE Over Homeless Student Access (Nov. 6, 2007)

KGMB, State Accused of Discriminating Against Homeless Students (Nov. 6, 2007)

Community Matters, Interview with William Durham (Oct. 7, 2007)

Suit Alleges Hawaii Fails Homeless Kids, Honolulu Advertiser (Oct. 3, 2007)