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State pays out $800,000 in settlement over homeless student issues in Riverview Gardens

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JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials paid out more than $800,000 as part of a settlement in a case involving the treatment of homeless students by the Riverview Gardens School District in suburban St. Louis.

According to documents released Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office, the state paid out $802,734 in April as part of an agreement reached after students sued the district in 2018.

Most of the payout was attributed to legal fees.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Jefferson City on behalf of two students and community groups, said the school district delayed or prevented the students’ enrollment, failed to provide them the required transportation to school, pushed some into online alternative programs and disciplined them in a discriminatory fashion.

In a consent decree filed in 2020, school officials agreed to identify and enroll homeless youth, provide transportation and services for them, and otherwise follow the McKenney-Vento Act, a federal law that guarantees homeless students access to schools.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to revise its oversight role.

Court filings said one student, identified only as “Scott,” said he couldn’t play football because of suspensions and absences caused by his difficulty getting enrolled and getting to school. The suit said he was punished for being late or absent because of his homelessness.

The students, as well as Metropolitan Congregations United and Empower Missouri, were represented by Legal Services of Eastern Missouri; Public Counsel, a pro bono law firm; and the Arnold & Porter law firm.

Posted at 11:51 a.m. Wednesday, June 1.

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