Manifestation Determination: What the Law Requires
By definition, manifestation determinations are formal inquiries that evaluate whether there are relationships between student disabilities and their misconduct. In effect, teams that have developed the student’s individualized education program (IEP) must consider the appropriateness of that program at the time specific behavioral incidents occurred that prompted disciplinary actions, as well as the possible need to change aspects of those programs and whether the behavior of concern resulted from the student’s disabilities. At the end of the manifestation determination process, IEP teams must evaluate and decide whether the behaviors of concern are direct manifestations of disabilities that are beyond the student’s comprehension and control.
The IDEA mandates manifestation determinations when students with disabilities undergo changes in their educational placement due to suspensions for periods of 10 school days or longer. Such determinations must be made by local educational agencies, parents (or guardians), and relevant members of the IEP team, as determined jointly by the parents and the local educational officials. Although the IDEA encourages parents to have a say in the composition of IEP teams, parents may not prevent specified individuals from participating if educational officials deem the presence of such persons necessary.
Pursuant to the IDEA, teams must conclude that a relationship between disability and misconduct exists if the conduct in question was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disabilities or if the conduct in question was the direct result of the failure of local educational officials to implement the IEP properly. If either of these circumstances is present, then the behavior is a manifestation of a student’s disability. If neither is true, then the behavior is not a manifestation of the student’s disability.