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Manifestation Determination for students with disabilities under IDEA

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The federal regulations for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes many provisions to protect the rights of parents and their child with a disability while also giving families and school systems means by which to resolve disputes. These rights are known as procedural safeguards. Parents and students have specific rights under this law to additional requirements for discipline under the statute 34 CR &300.530 (e) through the process of manifestation determination.

Under IDEA, the purpose of this review is to determine whether or not the child’s behavior that led to the disciplinary action is linked to his or her disability. Manifestation determinations were first included in IDEA with the 1997 amendments. Under IDEA 2004 the process has been simplified by limiting the requirement for a school district to perform a manifestation determination to school removals which constitute a change of placement under IDEA’s disciplinary procedures. It also does not require a manifestation determination for school removals for less than ten (10) consecutive school days that do not constitute a change in placement.

When is a manifestation determination review necessary? Under the statute, a manifestation determination must occur within ten (10) days of any decision to change the student’s placement because of a violation of a code of student conduct.

The school district, the parents and relevant members of the IEP team (determined by the parent and the school district) are involved in conducting the review. The purpose of this review is to determine two separate issues. The first issue is if the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability. The second issue is if the conduct in question was the direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the IEP.

To make these determinations, the group will review all relevant information in the student’s file, including the child’s IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents.

The link between the child’s conduct violation and his or her disability is important. As the Department of Education notes: ‘we believe the Act recognizes that a child with a disability may display disruptive behaviors characteristic of the child’s disability and the child should not be punished for behaviors that are a result of the child’s disability’. (71Fed. Reg. 46720)

The relationship between the child’s behavior and disability, however, is not the only factor to be considered in a manifestation determination. A manifestation determination must also consider if the child’s conduct was the direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP If such a finding is made, the regulations require the LEA to take immediate steps to remedy those deficiencies

IDEA states that the LEA, the parent, and relevant members of the child’s IEP team must review “all relevant information in the student’s file, including the child’s IEP, any teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents” as part of conducting a manifestation determination. It may include other relevant information in the child’s file, including placement appropriateness, supplementary aids and services, and if the behavior intervention strategies were appropriate and consistent with the IEP. (71 Fed. Reg. 46719)

In the next article, results of the manifestation determination process will be further explored.

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