Manifestation Determination Meetings: Overview, Strategies and Considerations

When advocating for your child, understanding the “Manifestation” process and meeting is essential. The following is a brief and general overview to help parents understand the process. This is meant to be a guide, as each situation — and thus each meeting — is unique. Overall, the focus of the meeting should be on determining the most appropriate interventions that will support the student in learning and what are the skills the students needs to be successful at school and later as an adult.

Federal Rights and Protections Regarding Discipline

IEP or 504 Plan & Manifestation

Office of Civil Rights (OCR) works to protect students with disabilities from violations of their rights in the discipline process. Under Section 504 and Title II, students with disabilities may not be punished or disciplined for behaviors that is caused by or is a manifestation of their disabilities. To protect against this, schools must hold a hearing before suspending a student with a disability for more than 10 days or if there is a pattern to the behaviors.

Also See Accommodation and Education Rights

Manifestation Review

“A review of the relationship between the student’s disability and the behavior subject to disciplinary action to determine if the conduct is a manifestation of the disability.”

When a child with an IEP or 504 Plan has behaviors that are in violation of a school’s code of conduct and a long-term suspension or a change of placement is suggested, the district is required to have a formal manifestation meeting to determine whether or not the behavior is a result of the child’s disability. If your child does not have a 504 or an IEP the school is not mandated to have a Manifestation meeting. You will need to contact your CSE chairperson to discuss your child’s disability and options.

There are Exceptions

Drugs, Weapons, or Serious Bodily Injury
EXCEPTIONS: If drugs, weapons or serious bodily injury are involved, the school is not mandated to hold a manifestation hearing. Remember every situation is unique.

Manifestation Team

Building the right team is key

  • Bring someone who has an expertise in your child’s disability, such as his/her therapist, counselor, behavior specialist..
  • District representative (someone knowledgeable about the student and interpretation about behavior)
  • Parent
  • Other relevant IEP members as determined by the parent and school district

Factors Schools Use

• If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability; or
• If the conduct in question was the direct result of the local educational agency’s failure to implement the IEP

It is often difficult to prove that it had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability. Recognizing that the law says substantial not significant.

Promoting child’s strengths during the meeting

  • Ask questions that will result in positive statements early in the meeting. Begin with person most likely to speak positively. This often results in others join in with positive statements.
  • Speak with the School psychologists prior to the meeting in an attempt to have them understand your child’s disability and how it impacted the event. They have a great deal of influence because they are typically seen as being the expert on behaviors.
  • Discuss examples from their reports/evaluations that exhibit why the student should not be suspended
  • Provide examples of child wanting to be successful

Presenting information to the Manifestation Team

  • You want to be prepared to go to the meeting with a good knowledge of typical symptoms and how the disability specifically impacts your child. Recognize that people may not be knowledgeable about child’s disability
  • Bring information about child’s disability and how it directly impacts this specific child. Look for well-respected websites that describe symptoms of your son/daughter disability. High light and bring a copy of this information for everyone at this meeting. It should have specific symptoms as they relate to this specific behavior. Try to keep handouts brief. You want to use these at the meeting to demonstrate the symptoms are directly and substantially related to the behavior that resulted in the suspension.

If Manifestation

The district may find that the behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability, but if drugs, weapons or serious bodily injury are involved student may legally still be suspended.

Student returned to Prior Placement, except:
– School District and parent agree to a change
– Serious bodily injury
– Weapons
– Illegal drugs or controlled substance
– School Must:
– Conduct an FBA
– Implement (or review and modify) the BIP.

Unique Circumstances

The Federal Law, IDEA encourages careful consideration of the student and the situation prior to suspending or determining a change of placement. The law reads: “School personnel may consider any unique circumstances on a case-by-case basis in determining whether a change of placement is appropriate for a child with a disability”. §300.530(a) (See also Legislation Affecting Education).

What Does this Mean?

As an example: Your son/daughter has been bullied for months by another student, and one day swears at the other student. As a parent, you would want to be prepared to discuss this occurrence as a “unique circumstance” in order to explain your son/daughter’s behavior. Some schools may not be familiar with this section of IDEA and/or your son/daughter’s unique situation. This could make all the difference in determining whether they suspend him/her. The district only needs to take this information “into consideration.” Remember: Parents are a part of this and they have a right to appeal.