Manifestation Determination Review

April 26, 2023 by Taylor Giordullo / special education

Manifestation Determination Review

What is a Manifestation Determination Review?

A Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) is a meeting to determine whether or not a student’s behavior that has resulted in a potential suspension or expulsion is due to their disability. It is a required procedure under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) if the student is expelled or suspended for more than 10 consecutive days.

When is a school required to provide an MDR?

A school is required to provide an MDR when a disciplinary action results in a change of placement for the student. Change of placement means that the student is expelled or suspended for more than 10 consecutive school days. A school is not required to provide an MDR if the removal period is less than 10 consecutive school days.
An MDR must be conducted within 10 days of the decision to change the student’s placement.

How does the school determine whether the behavior was a manifestation or not?

The MDR is conducted by members of the IEP team. If either of the following two standards were met, then the conduct is determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability:

  1. If the conduct was caused by or substantially related to the student’s disability
  2. If the conduct was the direct result of failed implementation of the student’s IEP

If the first standard is met, then the IEP team must consider if the student needs a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) or a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP). If these have already been conducted, the team should consider any updates that need to be made.
If the second standard is met, then the school has an affirmative obligation to correct issues with the student’s IEP implementation, and make sure the student is receiving all the services outlined.

If neither of these standards are met, then the student’s behavior was not a manifestation of their disability. This means that the school can carry out disciplinary procedures in the same manner it would for a student without a disability.

A school may remove a student or change placement even if the behavior was a manifestation of the disability in select circumstances. These include if the student brings a weapon, possesses drugs, or inflicts serious bodily injury on school property or at a school function.

Can you request an MDR before a school is required to provide one?

Yes. An MDR can be requested even if the discipline has not resulted in a change of placement for the student. For example, if the student was suspended for two days, the school is not legally obligated to conduct an MDR. However, a MDR can be requested if the disciplined conduct was related to their student’s disability. This can be a good opportunity to amend a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) to address the student’s needs.

How can you prepare for an MDR?

When attending an MDR, you should bring relevant documents and information about the student’s disability and behavior.

Before the meeting, you should review any documentation relevant to the disciplined conduct, such as a written suspension letter and details about the rule the student violated. It is also beneficial to have a medical provider attend or write a letter to explain how the disciplined behavior is related to the student’s disability. If the student in question is older, it might also be a good idea to have them attend the MDR.

A parent should prepare notes for what they would like to say during the meeting. These notes should include reasons why the parent believes the behavior was related to or caused by the disability or issues the parent has with the school’s implementation of the IEP.

An MDR is a more formal proceeding, so the parent should plan accordingly. It is important to be on time and dress appropriately.

What happens if the school does not hold an MDR?

A school is unable to expel or suspend a student with a disability for more than 10 school days if it does not hold an MDR. If the school does not conduct an MDR when necessary, it is a violation of special education law. If the school fails to provide a required MDR, the parent can pursue a special education dispute resolution option. For an explanation of these options, see our blog post here.

What happens if you do not agree with the MDR determination?

You can appeal a manifestation determination by filing a due process complaint.
If the school determined that the behavior was not a manifestation of the student’s disability, and the student is suspended or expelled for more than 10 days, you can file for expedited due process. After the complaint is filed, a district hearing must be held within 20 school days. Then, the hearing officer must make a determination within 10 days of the hearing. Additionally, a resolution meeting must be held within 7 days of receiving notice of the due process complaint unless the parents agree to a different timeframe.

If a parent thinks it unlikely that the hearing officer will determine the behavior was related to the student’s disability, they can still appeal the suspension or expulsion. In this case, the basis of their appeal will not be on their student’s disability.


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