IDEA 2004 Close Up: Disciplining Students With Disabilities
Page 3 of 5
By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute
"Manifestation Determination" - How Is Behavior Related to Disability?
IDEA 2004 has made some significant changes to the manner in which a determination is made about the relationship between the student's behavior that leads to the disciplinary action, and the student's disability. These changes will make it more difficult than was previously the case to establish a connection between disability and behavior, and to reach a conclusion that the behavior resulted from the disability. The decision reached in the manifestation determination is important because it will influence what can happen to the student's continued services and placement.
In making the manifestation determination, the team (comprised of school personnel, the student's parents, and other relevant members of the student's IEP team) will review:
- The student's IEP
- The student's behavior intervention plan
- Any teacher observations
- Any relevant information provided by the parents
Under IDEA 2004, the presumption of a connection between behavior and disability no longer exists. Now, the team is required to answer these questions:
- Considering the behavior subject to discipline, review the student's behavior to determine if it was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the student's disability. For example, a student's low self-esteem, while possibly a by-product of a learning disability, is not alone sufficient to be considered a basis for finding a direct relationship between the student's disability and behavior.
- Did the school fail to follow a portion of the IEP including a behavior intervention plan in a manner that directly caused the misconduct?
Finding of Manifestation
If the behavior is found to be directly related to the student's disability, the IEP team must plan for a functional behavioral assessment and the development of a behavior intervention plan based on the results of that assessment. If the student already had a behavior intervention plan in place, the IEP team must review if the plan was being followed and revise it as needed to address the problem behavior that led to this disciplinary action.
If the team finds that the student's behavior was related to the disability or an improperly implemented IEP, the student is returned to the original education setting unless the parents agree to a new placement as part of the behavior intervention plan.
Finding of No Manifestation
For students whose behavior was not directly related to the disability, the same disciplinary actions can be imposed as those imposed on a non-disabled student. Such action could include expulsion. However, if the student is expelled from school, the student must continue to receive educational services that allow him or her to continue to participate in the general education curriculum and progress toward meeting the goals set out in the IEP.
For students whose behavior is not determined to be directly associated with their disability, the IEP team should nonetheless consider the need for a functional behavioral assessment and behavior intervention plan.