Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)
When a student with a disability engages in activity in violation of a school’s code of conduct, in certain circumstances, the school district must conduct a manifestation determination review (MDR) to determine whether the child’s conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability.
During the MDR, the school district, parent, and relevant members of the IEP Team must review all relevant information in the student’s file to determine whether the student’s conduct was either caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability, or the result of the school district’s failure to implement the IEP. If the team determines the conduct meets either of these two conditions, the conduct is a manifestation of the child’s disability. 34 C.F.R. § 300.351(e).
When the conduct is a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP Team must return the child to the placement from which the child was removed. Usually, this means the child is returned to school. However, the school must take additional steps to support the student and try to proactively address the behavior, by either conducting a functional behavior assessment (FBA) and implementing a behavior intervention plan (BIP) or, if the child already had a BIP in place, review the BIP and modify as necessary. 34 C.F.R. § 300.351(f).
When does a school district conduct an MDR?
The school district must conduct an MDR if the child is covered under either the IDEA or Section 504.
The district must conduct an MDR within 10 school days of the school’s decision to change the placement of the student with a disability due to a violation of the code of conduct. 34 C.F.R. § 300.351(e).
A change of placement occurs if:
- The removal is for more than 10 consecutive school days; or
- The child has been subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern—
- Because the series of removals totals more than 10 school days in a school year;
- Because the child’s behavior is substantially similar to the child’s behavior in previous incidents that resulted in the series of removals; and
- Because of such additional factors as the length of each removal, the total amount of time the child has been removed, and the proximity of the removals to one another.
34 C.F.R. § 300.356(a).
Regardless of whether the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, the school district may remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting for no more than 45 days if the child:
- Brings a weapon to school;
- Knowingly possesses, uses, or sells illegal drugs at school; or
- Has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person while at school.
34 C.F.R. § 300.351(g).
Expedited Due Process Hearings:
If a parent disagrees with the manifestation determination, the parent may appeal the decision by requesting a due process hearing. The hearing must take place on an expedited timeline: the hearing must take place within 20 school days of the date the complaint was filed, and the hearing officer must make a decision within 10 school days of the hearing. 34 C.F.R. § 300.532.
Some common issues that we see arise regarding discipline of students with disabilities:
- Suspending a child and then waiting the full ten (10) days to hold the MDR, rather than determine if the conduct was a manifestation of the disability before suspending the student;
- Failing to explain to parents what Manifestation Determination Review means and the importance of the process;
- Failing to conduct MDRs, especially for students with disabilities protected under Section 504; and
- Failing to follow the appropriate procedure for conducting MDRs.