When it comes to behavioral discipline, students with an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or a Section 504 plan have procedures in place as well as legal protections to ensure they are not penalized for actions directly related to their disability.
As a parent or guardian, it is important to be actively engaged in the manifest determination process and work with the school to reach a positive solution that will help your child better access their education.
What is Manifestation Determination?
Manifest Determination refers to a collaborative review process conducted by the school, the child’s parents, and any relevant members of the child’s IEP team, typically following repeated behaviors that violate the student code of conduct and culminating in a suspension or removal that exceeds 10 consecutive school days. The purpose of this process is to examine the relationship between the child’s disability and the presented behaviors, determine if their needs were met by the school, develop a course of action, and adjust provided services if necessary.
To come to a successful determination, the representatives present must answer two questions:
- Was the child’s behavior in question caused by, or did it have a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability?
- Was the child’s behavior in question the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP?
The answers to these questions will determine the next course of action for the student as well as the necessary steps the school may need to take to ensure all accommodations are appropriately met.
A manifestation determination meeting is often the last opportunity for the child’s parents and IEP team to discuss and advocate for the child before serious disciplinary action is taken on behalf of the school. Working with an education rights attorney is the most effective way to make sure your child’s rights are protected and discriminating punishments are not issued.
How Does Manifest Determination Protect My Child?
Due to laws surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with special needs cannot be removed from their current school placement by the method of suspension, expulsion, or alternative placement without consideration of their disability and an evaluation of their current behavior plan. It is legally required for schools to conduct a manifestation determination meeting before a student holding an IEP or 504 Plan receives any further disciplinary removal.
Manifestation Determination Outcomes
- When the behavior IS a manifestation of the disability:
The student cannot be removed from their current placement. School administration in conjunction with the student’s IEP team should then conduct a behavioral assessment and implement or remedy deficiencies in an existing behavioral plan to ensure positive behavioral intervention and appropriate mediations when behavior impedes their learning or the learning of others.
- When the behavior is NOT a manifestation of the disability:
The administration can move forward with removal as outlined in the student code of conduct. Even in the situation of removal, the school district is still required to provide the student with educational services as determined by their IEP team and documented in an IEP, to participate in the general education curriculum, although in another setting, and to progress toward meeting IEP goals.
- If the student’s parent or guardian disagrees with the outcome of a manifestation determination review, a due process hearing may be requested.
Representation at Manifest Determination Meetings
You and your child have a legal right to be represented by an attorney in manifestation determination proceedings. It is important to work with an attorney who is experienced in the field of special education and can guide your family in best practices. Jennifer Chang is an experienced special education attorney who will fight for your family’s rights with passion and determination.
Even with representation, your role as the child’s guardian is essential. You will need to provide your attorney and the school with detailed information about your child, their progress, and learning and behavior challenges and goals. Being open and forthright will allow the school administration and the IEP team to make the best possible decisions for your child as well as allow you and your attorney to advocate fully.
It should be noted that each student has different educational and behavioral needs, and there are many variables that go into developing accommodations, plans, and goals for students with exceptionalities. There are also many layers of law and legislation that may impact individual cases.
Here’s How We Can Help
The Law Offices of Jennifer Chang believe in protecting students’ rights to a free and appropriate education under both federal and state laws. If your child is facing punishment based on behaviors outlined – or you believe should be outlined – in their IEP, education rights attorney Jennifer Chang will fight vigorously on your child’s behalf. Her offices are located in California in Los Angeles, Buena Park, and San Jose.