Not all children are the same. Some children do well and behave well; other children struggle with learning and may act out. Some children, who act out or misbehave, may not have ill intentions; they may have disabilities.
Bad behavior doesn’t mean disability automatically; whether the bad behavior is a manifestation of a child’s disability for an act that happens at school is determined through a manifestation determination hearing. In a manifestation determination hearing, school representatives, experts, and parents assess information whether a child’s “bad” behavior resulted from the child’s disability or from the school’s failure to follow the guidelines, outlined in the child’s individualized educational plan (IEP) or 504 plan.
If a child with a disability received school suspension for ten straight days or for more than ten days in the same academic year, a manifestation determination hearing needs to be held no later than ten weekdays after the child’s suspension. A manifestation determination hearing also needs to be held in ten weekdays if school officials contemplate expelling the child.
A manifestation determination hearing makes sure that schools don’t discriminate or take disciplinary action against a child with a disability if the child behavior results from the child’s disability.
The guidelines and procedures for a manifestation determination hearing are clear: As stated above, a manifestation determination hearing needs to be held ten weekdays after school officials decide to place a child in a different classroom setting because the child violated school code. If school officials place a child, who has an IEP, in a different classroom setting while awaiting a manifestation determination hearing, law requires the school to provide services according to the child’s IEP. A manifestation determination assessment might occur as early as a day after the parents or legal guardians are notified.
In addition, parents, school officials, experts, local education agency representatives, and attorneys may or should attend the manifestation determination hearing, and everyone present at the meeting must look at the child’s IEP, observations made by educators, insights offered by parents, and more when they decide whether the child’s conduct resulted from his or her disability. They also must account for similar past situations and actions, and if they determine that the child’s conduct resulted from his or her disability, the school may take appropriate disciplinary action.
If those present at the manifestation determination hearing determine that the child’s conduct didn’t result from the child’s disability, the school might take disciplinary action against the child like it might take a disciplinary action against a child without a disability. Nevertheless, law requires that the school keeps providing services to the child in question during the removal period. Furthermore, periodic reviews of and/or changes to the behavior plan should occur to prevent any future misbehavior, and the IEP team dictates the classroom setting and services during the manifestation determination hearing.
Parents or legal guardians can ask for an expedited due process hearing if they dispute that their child’s conduct didn’t result from the child’s disability. Such a hearing must occur no later than twenty days after the parents’ request for a hearing, and the due process hearing officer must reach a ruling no later than ten weekdays after the hearing happened. Similarly, the school can ask for an expedited due process hearing if the school disputes that the child’s conduct didn’t result from the child’s disability, and the school needs to prove that keeping the child in his or her classroom setting following the manifestation determination hearing significantly would cause the child and/or other people injury. The due process hearing officer might rule that the child stays in his or her current classroom setting for no more than 45 weekdays if the due process hearing officer rules in the school’s favor.
The school ought to examine the child speedily if the child is referred to a special education classroom setting after the incident involving the child’s conduct occurred; however, the child must stay in his or her current classroom setting in the meantime.
Parents and legal guardians should know: Don’t let the language or terminology confuse or overwhelm them. Manifestation determination hearings, the IEP meetings, the due process hearings, and the like often are designed to allow children to stay in school. They, the parents, often play pivotal roles in assisting their children stay in school, as they know their children best and can help other people understand their children better. Don’t allow the matter to scare them.
Parents also should know: Prepare for all meetings concerning their children as soon as possible. Waiting to prepare likely won’t do the parents and/or their children any favors. The sooner parents prepare, the more likely they will gain effectiveness and confidence concerning their children.
Remember: Parents or legal guardians, school officials, experts, teachers, and attorneys attend a manifestation determination hearing. Depending on the age of the child being disciplined, he or she also may attend the manifestation determination hearing. Also, remember: A manifestation determination hearing happens after a child faces disciplinary sanctions implemented by the school.
If you have questions and/or concerns about manifestation determination hearings, IEPs, and related topics, talk to a lawyer. To learn more, to have your questions answered, and to have your concerns addressed, call or contact Nashville Education and Disability Attorney Perry A. Craft at the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC.
Perry A. Craft has dedicated his life to helping people in need. He has tried, settled, or resolved numerous civil and criminal cases in State and Federal courts, and has represented teachers and administrators before school boards, administrative judges, and the state Board of Education. Learn more about Attorney Craft.