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    A Closer Look at Athletics and Homeless Student Designation
    Posted on 07/20/2017

    Dear Families:

    You may have seen recent news stories raising questions about Seattle schools using homeless designations to improve student athletic eligibility. We want to take a moment to share with our Seattle Public School families important details reporters chose not to include.

    While confidentiality laws prohibit us from sharing how the students who raised the allegations are being cared for today, we can speak about the systems we are responsible for managing (e.g. academic, athletic and support systems), and what we have been doing since these concerns were raised in March.

    Once the district learned of the athletic recruiting allegations, we immediately hired someone unaffiliated with the district to investigate. We wanted to ensure an impartial review.

    The investigator focused on the specific question of whether school employees directly or indirectly recruited two students from out of state to play football for one school’s program, and how being designated homeless by the school may have benefited their academic eligibility. Doing so is against state WIAA rules.

    Even before the investigator concluded his report (he was unable to substantiate the allegations), we started our own review of how we designate students as “homeless” and ensure this deserving population receives the full academic and other support services they are entitled to – regardless of their participation in extracurricular activities.

    Since June, we have been examining the processes regarding:

    • verification of where homeless students live;
    • academic eligibility requirements and academic supports for students experiencing homelessness;
    • reinforcing rules and expectations for athletes, parents, coaches and booster clubs; and
    • different perspectives people have on the role athletics play for offering a path to college.

    The School Board had been updating the district policy on students experiencing homelessness, and made sure to amend it to make clear only central office staff can designate a student as eligible for McKinney-Vento services. We expect to have in the fall a more comprehensive report on our progress to share.

    Homelessness is a growing issue in our community, and its impacts are evident in many of our schools. We offer additional academic, health and social supports for students experiencing homelessness, thanks to the federal McKinney-Vento Act. We also tap into city education levy dollars and local levy dollars you have approved. But we know it’s not enough.

    While the situation that led to our investigation and planned improvements came through an athletic lens, we need to sustain focus on the larger charge of creating stability and academic success for these vulnerable students.

    Thank you for your continued support.

    Stephen J. Nielsen
    Deputy Superintendent