During my tenure as a school psychologist, I have participated and chaired hundreds of Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings. Parents usually have an understanding that IEP meetings are to review their child’s progress based on the measurement of the specific goals and objectives, supported through special education services and accommodations. The purpose and potential outcomes of Manifestation Determination meetings are often misunderstood by parents.
The Purpose of a Manifestation Determination meeting
A Manifestation Determination meeting is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)when a special education student violates student code of conduct and the school takes disciplinary action. The school is required to hold a meeting for the purpose of terminating whether or not the child’s behavior which led to disciplinary action is related to his or her disability. Simply stated, this meeting is to determine whether the child’s behavior which led to suspension, expulsion, or change in placement is a result or manifestation of the child’s disability. Not all disciplinary actions triggered such a formal review. A Manifestation Determination meeting is held for a special education student under two conditions:
- The student is removed from the present educational placement (suspension) for more than 10 consecutive schools’ days due to misconduct.
- The student’s educational placement is changed due to misconduct.
When is a Manifestation Determination meeting held?
The determination as to whether the behavior that resulted in disciplinary action or suspension over 10 consecutive days, expulsion or a change in educational placement must be held within 10 days of the decision to take such action.
What information that will be reviewed?
The Manifestation Determination meeting reviews all relevant information and the relationship between the child’s behavior and disability. Relevant information may include:
- Previous Psycho-educational and psychiatric evaluations
- The child’s current and past IEPs
- Academic records such as grades, progress reports, teacher comments, and academic transcripts
- Official documentation collected by the principal and assistant principal pertaining to the behavior that led to dictionary action.
Participants in the meeting
Participants in the review meeting are similar to those who attend IEP meeting. Typicality present in Manifestation Determination meetings are the school psychologist, special education teacher, general education teacher, principal and/or asistant principal, parent, child (when appropriate) and representatives of the child’s parent.
The potential outcomes
A manifestation determination meeting involves the review of the student’s misconduct, the student’s disability and the IEP services provided to determine if:
The behaviors resulted from or was a manifestation of the child’s disability.
If the determination is Yes, then the student will not be suspended more then 10 consecutive days, expelled or be placed in a different educational placement.
If the answer is No, then the school cannot expel, suspend the child for more than 10 consecutive days, or purpose a change in educational placement. However, under IDEA, misconduct that included carrying a deadly weapon, possession or under the influence of illegal drugs may result in expulsion or a change in placement.
Recourse for parents
When parents disagree with the decision rendered at a Manifestation Determination meeting, they should request a Due Process Hearing from a panel outside of the basic IEP team. At this point, it is advised that parents consult a professional advocate or special education attorney to ensure that procedures in this hearing are abided by. If this meeting determines the answers to the above question to be, “no”, the student can be expelled from the school system or have his or her educational placement changed.
Manifestation Determination meetings are held to determine if a disabled child’s misconduct is a result of their disability. Expulsion from school is serious. It means that the student cannot attend extracurricular activities, school functions, be on school property and participate in graduation ceremonies. Such decisions are not taken lightly by school districts as they give careful consideration to the child’s disability, while ensuring safety of all students and staff. Parents should understand that there are a set of established procedures for children with disabilities who receive serious disciplinary action from the school. Parents of special education students have rights protected under the law and are advised to utilize all resources to ensure that their child with special needs receives fair treatment and that school’s take their disability into consideration when rendering disciplinary action.
Joseph Graybill, Ph.D.