What is a manifestation determination meeting?

If you are seeking out this information, your child is likely in trouble with his school district. Additionally, your child is in special education, because this issue deals with children under the umbrella of special education. A manifestation determination meeting is very serious because it means that the school district is attempting to change your child’s placement or place your child on a lengthy suspension .

What is an manifestation determination? If a school district wishes to force a change of placement or suspend a child for an amount greater than 10 days, it must conduct a manifestation determination. The term itself means that the district must decide (determination) if the conduct which was the reason for the sought after discipline was a result (manifestation) of the child’s disability. If it was not, then the suspension/change of placement may proceed. If it was, then it may not. The reason for this is simple. If the behavior was caused by the child’s disability, i.e. impassivity, then the child was really not in control of their actions and the discipline would be unwarranted.

What is the process? A manifestation determination looks like an IEP team meeting, although there will likely be more school district personnel in attendance.

How will the decision be made? The district will investigate the incident itself. In order to do this, it will look at evidence, talk to witnesses, interview any victims, talk to the administrators and school personnel who have knowledge of the incident and its surrounding circumstances. Second, the district will review relevant information regarding the child and his disability already known to the district. In other words, they will review the student’s educational records, including the child’s cumulative file, their special education documentation, any information from  Student Study Team meetings and the like. Once this step is completed, the IEP team must then make its determination.

What questions are asked to determine if the behavior is a result (manifestation) of the child’s disability?There are two questions that must be answered.

(I) if the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability; or

(II) if the conduct in question was the direct result of the local educational agency’s failure to implement the IEP.

If the local educational agency, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team determine that either subclause (I) or (II) is applicable for the child, the conduct shall be determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability.

(F) Determination that behavior was a manifestation.–If the local educational agency, the parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team make the determination that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP Team shall–

(i) conduct a functional behavioral assessment, and implement a behavioral intervention plan for such child, provided that the local educational agency had not conducted such assessment prior to such determination before the behavior that resulted in a change in placement;

(ii) in the situation where a behavioral intervention plan has been developed, review the behavioral intervention plan if the child already has such a behavioral intervention plan, and modify it, as necessary, to address the behavior; and

(iii) except where there are special applicable circumstances, return the child to the placement from which the child was removed, unless the parent and the local educational agency agree to a change of placement as part of the modification of the behavioral intervention plan.

Are only special education children subject to manifest determination requirements? No, in limited circumstances, children not in special education may also be protected.  If the district has knowledge that the child has a disability, then a manifestation determination is necessary before a lengthy suspension or change of school placement.

When does a school district have knowledge that a non-special education student is disabled? A district is attributed such knowledge under three circumstances: 1) when a parent has in writing expressed to the district that the child needs services; 2) when a parent has made a written request for special education testing for the child to the district; and 3) when school personnel have expressed specific concerns about a problematic behaviors directly to the director of special education for a district or supervisory personnel.

If your child has an upcoming manifestation determination meeting, it would be wise to consult with an attorney in order to protect your child’s rights. You may contact The Law Office of Gregory R. Branch at its website, by email, gregorybranch@edrightsadvocate.com, or by phone at (714) 856-1166.

About The Law Office of Gregory R. Branch

Gregory Branch is a licensed California attorney and a credentialed California teacher and school administrator. His solo practice focuses on educational issues in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. Prior to becoming an attorney, Gregory taught children in every grade, K-12, served as an assistant principal, and a principal. He and his wonderful wife, a licensed Marriage Family Therapist and School Counselor, are raising a middle school age daughter.
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