Theses Master's

The Kids Have Gone Feral: Children Experiencing Homelessness and the Loss of Opportunity for Social and Emotional Learning

Steele, Jennifer

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the impact that school closures during COVID-19 had on US students. Specifically, this thesis focuses on students experiencing homelessness, and the impact on the opportunity for social and emotional learning (SEL). Due to the scope of COVID-19, many factors of life were impacted including access to the right to education, with in-person schools closing nation-wide to curb the spread of the virus.

This widespread experience of school closure in the US creates a unique lens into the barriers and risks of education loss during times of emergency, especially for vulnerable populations of students at risk of increased consequences. The study of SEL is significant as SEL supports the development of the whole child. SEL is a mitigating factor for negative impacts of childhood trauma and has been implemented in international humanitarian emergency and refugee settings. Because the right to education is enshrined in international human rights law and the US has agreed to international treaties supporting the non-discrimination of the right to education; it is imperative to examine the right to education in the US during school closures.

This thesis found that a gap in research and accountability for students experiencing homelessness in the US exists and was expanded during school closures with an increase of homeless students dropping out of school. Further, SEL opportunities for all students were impacted leading to the return-to-school being riddled with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. This thesis calls for further research to better understand the impact of the loss of education and SEL for US students during school closures. Further research is also necessary to understand the full scope that school closures had on students experiencing homelessness. Education and SEL directly impact students’ future opportunities, the US must ensure that the right to education is fully realized especially during and following times of emergency.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Steele, Jennifer, Fall, 2022 - Jennifer Hines Steele.pdf Steele, Jennifer, Fall, 2022 - Jennifer Hines Steele.pdf application/pdf 534 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Holland, Tracey M.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2023