At Greenwood Law, one of our areas of focus is Special Education Law. We are always pleased to assist our clients in obtaining the best possible outcome for their children in the educational environment. Part of that area of practice includes the development of an Individualized Education Program. This can introduce the process of a Manifestation Determination Review.
What is a manifestation determination review and why is it important?
A Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) is a process that schools must follow when a student with a disability faces disciplinary action that could result in a change of placement, such as suspension or expulsion. The purpose of the MDR is to determine if the student's behavior was caused by or related to their disability, or if it was the result of the school's failure to implement the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).
The MDR is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which protects the rights of students with certain listed disabilities. The IDEA also recognizes that some students with disabilities may have behavioral challenges that interfere with learning or the learning of others, and that these students may need additional supports and services to address their needs.
The Manifestation Determintation is a collaborative process that involves the school, the parent or guardian, and relevant members of the IEP team. The MDR must be conducted within the statutorily proscribed period (usually 10 school days of the decision to change the student's placement). The MDR team must review all relevant information, such as the student's IEP, Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP), evaluation reports, observations, and any other information provided by the parent or guardian. The MDR team must answer two questions:
- Was the conduct in question caused by, or did it have a direct and substantial relationship to, the student's disability?
- Was the conduct in question the direct result of the school's failure to implement the student’s IEP?
If the answer to either question is yes, then the behavior is treated as a result of the student's disability, and the school cannot proceed with the disciplinary action. Instead, the school must take steps to address the student's behavioral needs, such as conducting a functional behavioral assessment (FBA), developing or revising a Behavior Intervention Plan, or providing additional services or supports. The school must also return the student to their original placement, unless the parent or guardian agrees otherwise, or if the behavior involved other serious issues.
If the answer to both questions is no, then the behavior is not considered a result of the student's disability, and the school can apply the same disciplinary procedures that apply to all students subject to any appeals processes that would delay such action. However, even if the student is removed from their current placement, they must still receive educational services that enable them to continue to participate in the general curriculum and progress toward their IEP goals. They must also receive a functional behavioral assessment and behavioral intervention services to prevent future incidents.
The MDR is an important safeguard that ensures that students with disabilities are not unfairly punished for behaviors that are related to their disability or due to inadequate services. It also helps schools identify and address the underlying causes of challenging behaviors and provide appropriate supports and interventions for students with disabilities.
If you have been denied, wish to preserve your rights, or would like to review your options, with respect to an MDR contact Greenwood Law at 309-517-5415.