IEP Process: Manifestation Determination Part 2

12 Mar

This is the second post on manifestation determination, which is an important variation in the IEP process.  See part 1 here.

Raising a child with a disability is difficult.You’ve been dealing with this person’s behavioral issues since day one.And you still love them because this is your child!Little Johny might not be an angel, but he’s trying his best.You may be getting many phone calls from the school regarding your child’s behavior and heaven knows you hear enough at the annual IEP meetings.

But in about 7th grade, it might be a bit more serious.Johny or Joni might have done something for which they are being suspended.Perhaps it is something like getting into a fight or stealing something or bringing something they ought not to have brought to school.Formal charges might have been filed with the police.For most students, they will go through a tribunal or disciplinary process to determine the facts and then give out the punishment.But for students with disabilities, there is an added part to the process called a Manifestation Determination.

The idea for doing this is because the disciplinary process could be used in such a way as to deny a student their right to a free and appropriate public education.If we can just frustrate a student with a behavioral disability long enough, they’ll do something dumb and they can be kicked out.

To a parent, this manifestation is going to look an awful lot like a tribunal or trial.In a sense it is, but it’s not exactly what you think.If your child is up for suspension for fighting, the specific facts of the case will be brought up but that is not going to be the focal point of the discussion.This often confuses parents because they come to the meeting prepared to argue on behalf of their child staying in school.While this is what is at stake, it is not going to be treated directly.This is both good and bad.The good news is that there is at least one more meeting where the case can be argued if this one fails.The bad news is that it can be very confusing to parents.

Using my example from the previous post, where a student accepted money that he knew had been stolen, it looks very bad for the student.How does a disability in writing influence whether or not a child steals?

However, the present level of performance did reveal some impulsivity and a vulnerability to undo influence from peers.These are not untypical for individuals with various disabilities who lack social skills.It’s not so much the writing disability at issue as much as the topography of the entire disability.So a savvy parent could legitimately make the case that the incident could indeed be a manifestation of the disability.However expect heavy argument and dissention from the administrator.

This is a good reason for a parent to have an individual private evaluation done and included as part of the IEP record.Such documentation is the key to turning things around.

At one point during that manifestation I thought the parent might actually be on the verge of prevailing.Not on the first question, but on the second regarding the school’s implementation of the IEP.She started asking questions about her son’s teachers, specifically the special education teachers.He had several collaborative classes plus one resource class.The fact was, that one of the collaborative classes was staffed by a substitute all semester and the resource class only has had a para since the end of January.The fact is, fully one third of his services were not being provided in accordance with the law by having a highly qualified teacher.But the parent did not sufficiently pursue her line of questioning, and dropped the matter. When asked, the caseload teacher said the student was getting all the services as written in the IEP.

My role in this meeting was not an active one, as I was not a case manager or a teacher of this child.  One can imagine the reaction I would have gotten if I had said anything resembling what I was thinking.

I’ve tried to summarize something about manifestations that might be helpful.If you’re a parent, I would advise bringing in an advocate for a manifestation just because it can help to have someone who is not so emotionally bound up in the process who might be able to keep you from being steam rolled.It’s a lot like an IEP except more emotionally charged and consequences can be dire as far as suspension and alternative school.

Hopefully I won’ t have to sit through one as a parent but I think I know enough about the process to make all parties involved very nervous. And they should be.

Having said that, there are times when the action has no relationship to the disability.For instance I once had a student who went through a manifestation because he brought a porn tape to school and tried to play it.He intended to trade the tape for something else, but when he tried to play it he was busted.While he was being served in a self-contained EBD class, his actions were clearly deliberate and not related to being EBD.In fact, his deliberateness and ingenuity at working to get something he wanted by trading rather than intimidation might almost be seen as an improvement.So in this case, his trip to the alternative school was earned.

I’ll write more about IEPs later, but thought this needed to be talked about at least a little bit.


3 Responses to “IEP Process: Manifestation Determination Part 2”

  1. Andrew & Rayna Houvouras March 13, 2007 at 2:06 pm #

    It is not you. What is the motivation to teach EBD & special education? We do not offer better pay for the tougher positions. We remain optimistic that special education is improving because it seems like those being drawn to teach special education today tend to be bright, active, even idealistic. Part of the problem, in our opinion, is that classes in special education do not reflect some of the very real difficulties and, special educators are given only scant information about behavioral methodologies even though they tend to spend a great deal of time dealing with challenging behaviors.

    Always enjoy your blogs.

  2. Dick Dalton March 14, 2007 at 6:58 am #

    Agreed. ALL teachers could benefit from more in-depth instruction in behavioral methodologies.

    Thank you for stopping by! I’ve been enjoying your blog as well, although I haven’t been good about delivering reinforcement to anyone on my blogroll lately. Most education bloggers learn to make do with pretty lean schedules!

  3. Debbie July 10, 2007 at 3:56 pm #

    Where did we go wrong, when we had a MDR for my son, who sent a “threatening” message via email to another student who he disliked. At the time his IEP included a social emotional goal to learn to “interact appropriately with peers”? We had an attorney present, my son was on meds for ADHD (impulsive), and he had a history of saying hurtful (but true) things to peers. Since diagnosed with Asperger’s.

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