When a child with a disability gets in trouble at school, the law requires that the school take steps not to discriminate against the child based on his or her disability. The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) creates a framework and a process for this, known as a manifestation determination review.
In a nutshell, when a student with an individualized education plan (IEP) has been excluded from school for disciplinary reasons for 10 days in a school year, the school is required to hold a meeting (called a manifestation determination review) to determine whether the conduct for which the student might be disciplined was (1) caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability; or (2) If the conduct in question was the direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP. If it is, the child can’t be excluded from school and the team needs to either (1) conduct an assessment (called a functional behavior assessment or FBA) to determine the cause of the behaviors and develop a plan (called a behavior intervention plan) to address the behaviors, or (2) remedy the failure to implement the IEP. If the behavior is not a manifestation of the child’s disability, the school can proceed with imposing school discipline.
Here are some things you should know about manifestation determination reviews:
The trigger for a manifestation determination review is a change in placement for disciplinary reasons. The IDEA defines this as removal for more than 10 consecutive days or a series of removals (totaling more than 10 days in a school year) that constitutes a pattern.
In-school suspensions may not count toward the 10 days, depending on the facts.
The review is not limited to the disability upon which eligibility is based. The review must include all relevant information, all relevant information in the student’s file, including the child’s IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents.
Even if the conduct is a manifestation of your child’s disability, if the conduct involves weapons, drugs, or serious bodily injury, there are important exceptions that may apply and the school may be able to place your child in a 45-day interim alternative educational setting.
Even if the behavior is not a manifestation of your child’s disability, and your child is excluded from school, the school is required to provide educational services “to enable the child to continue to participate in the general education curriculum and to progress toward maintaining goals set out in IEP.”
Children who are not identified as children with special education needs can assert the protection of a manifestation determination review if the public agency had knowledge (as defined in law) that the child was a child with a disability before the behavior that precipitated the disciplinary action occurred.
Don’t wait until after the manifestation determination review to contact a lawyer. Even though you have a right to dispute the decision, if you want to keep your child in school, it is important to know and exercise your rights before the team makes a decision.
For helpful information, check out these resources: