SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, today unveiled legislation prohibiting evictions of school children, their families, and educators during the school year.
Joined by Seattle School Board Member Zachary DeWolf, Seattle Education Association members, and a Seattle school student, Sawant announced that her legislation will be heard in the Council’s Sustainability and Renters Rights Committee, which she chairs, on April 27, and that she expects a full Council vote later this spring.
“When landlords evict families with school-aged children, especially during the school year, the eviction has a devastating impact on the children’s academic achievement, health, and development. The vast majority of evicted schoolchildren have to change schools, abruptly leaving behind their friends, teachers they know and trust, and their social supports. Evictions harm students’ chance of graduating, and greatly increase dropout rates. That’s why I’m committed to work with educators, students, and our renters’ rights movement to stop landlords from evicting families with school children, along with stopping the eviction of education workers,” Sawant said.
Sawant urged community members to sign a petition supporting the ban on school-year evictions, and called for swift City Council approval of her bill.
Sawant noted that state officials have found that 4,200 Seattle public school students were homeless at some point during the school year, a substantial increase over previous years.
“This means that in a typical class, more than two of my classmates are homeless,” said Natalya McConnell, a 9th grader at Franklin High School. “This is shameful. That’s why we need to stop evictions of school children and their families and school staff.”
Seattle School Board Director Zachary DeWolf noted that in a March 2021 point-in-time survey, the school district found more than 2,100 Seattle school students in a range of homelessness circumstances, including group homes, shelters, doubled up with other families, and in transitional housing. Some reported living on the street or in a vehicle.
Winning passage of Sawant’s legislation “will be a huge deal for the students who are experiencing this trauma,” DeWolf said.
Sawant noted that stopping school-year evictions is a Black Lives Matter and racial justice issue. Disproportionately, Black and Brown students struggle with homelessness. Some 14 percent of Seattle public school students are Black, but fully 40.7 percent of homeless students are Black, and 12 percent of students are Latinx, but 23.3 percent of homeless students are Latinx, Sawant noted, citing data from the Seattle School District and the state.
Sawant also pointed to the 2018 Losing Home report by the King County Bar Association and the Seattle Women’s Commission, which found that the vast majority – 85.7 percent – of children in evicted households were forced to change schools as a result of the eviction, and that 87.5 percent struggled with school performance as a result.