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Suit in New York Demands Schooling for Homeless

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Lawyers in New York have filed a federal class action seeking to force the state education department to devise a method for deciding the school placement of homeless children.

A hearing in the class action, said to be the first of its kind in the state and among the first in the nation, was held in U.S. District Court in White Plains on Oct. 23.

Originally filed on behalf of a 9-year-old homeless girl, the suit asks that the state be required to take ac4tion when districts refuse to register homeless children because they are temporary or former residents.

U.S. District Judge Gerard L. Goettel issued a temporary restraining order last month saying that the girl, Desarae Paganelli, was entitled to attend school in Hyde Park, where she had been living with her mother until last year, even though the two had moved to a shelter for the homeless in Spackenkill.

The Hyde Park and Spackenkill districts had refused to register the girl on the grounds that she did not qualify for permanent residency in either district. The Poughkeepsie district, where the girl lived briefly this year, said it would enroll her only if she paid tuition, which her mother said she could not afford.

Since the judge's order, the family has found a home in Hyde Park, said Michael J. Sinsky, a lawyer for Mid-Hudson Legal Services, which filed the suit.--kg

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