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Manifestation Determinations Done Right: Caselaw Lessons and Compliant Practices. Presented by Jose Mart ín, Attorney at Law Richards Lindsay & Martín, L.L.P. Austin, Texas. Basic IDEA Rule.

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Manifestation determinations done right caselaw lessons and compliant practices

Manifestation Determinations Done Right: Caselaw Lessons and Compliant Practices

Presented by

Jose Martín, Attorney at Law

Richards Lindsay & Martín, L.L.P.

Austin, Texas


Basic idea rule
Basic IDEA Rule Compliant Practices

  • Schools may impose long-term disciplinary removals only after finding the offense was not related to the student’s disabilities (i.e., not a “manifestation” of the disabilities)

  • Thus, the MD review (MDR) is crucial


The 2004 mdr reforms
The 2004 MDR Reforms Compliant Practices

  • Policy background—Congress wanted a “raising of the bar” for MDRs

  • Modern MDR Formulation—Need for causal, direct, or substantial relation between behavior & disability

  • Failures to implement IEP must directly result in behavior for a link finding


The 2004 mdr reforms1
The 2004 MDR Reforms Compliant Practices

  • “Attenuated” relationships, like low-self esteem arguments, are not enough

  • Also, a desire to simplify MDRs (which was quite complicated under IDEA ‘97)

  • Analysis of behavior across settings and time (a new emphasis for MDRs)

  • Appropriateness of IEP not an MDR issue, only implementation


When is the mdr required
When is the MDR Required? Compliant Practices

  • Main situation—For disciplinary changes in placement (long-term removals of >10 consecutive school days)

  • Also, when short-term removals get to be “too much” in a year (pattern of exclusion)


How is new mdr different
How is “new” MDR Different? Compliant Practices

  • Closer logical relationship between behavior and disability required now

  • Compare to IDEA ‘97 provision, where even slight links could support link finding

  • And, 1997 language was obtuse—new formulation is more straightforward

  • Very difficult to to argue behavior related to IEP failures

  • With stay-put change, fewer MD cases…


Modern mds in action
Modern MDs in Action Compliant Practices

  • San Diego USD (SEA Cal. 2009)

    Student claims possession of pills was impulsive and related to ADHD

    Student had texted and talked to another about sharing the pills at school

    HO upheld school’s no-link finding based on the student’s long-term arrangements


  • Fitzgerald v. Fairfax Co. Compliant Practices(E.D.Va. 2008)

    ED Student involved in paintball vandalism at school over span of hours at night

    Notice parents’ procedural arguments…

    Court found no link, noted student was the “planner,” and that he went back for ammo three times


  • Medford Pub. Schs Compliant Practices. (SEA Mass. 2010)

    Student involved in off-campus car break-in

    Facts showed planning (disguise, alibi)

    Private psych argued relation to “executive function deficits,” but without evaluation and limited contact with student


  • In re: Student Compliant Practices(SEA W.Va. 2009)

    Student with ADHD, ODD, borderline IQ, took a pill given to him by older boy

    Records indicated he was impulsive, susceptible to peer pressure

    School’s brief MDR did not review key info above, predetermined MD


  • Summary of Impulsivity Cases Compliant Practices

    Argument is essentially de rigeur in cases of emotional or behavioral disabilities

    But, if behavior involves steps, plans, time, argument tends to fail

    Facts must on their face show impulsivity


MaST Charter Sch Compliant Practices. (SEA PA 2006)

Student brings knife for protection, on various occasions

Parent submits new eval with new diagnoses (with scant support)

Panel finds behavior not impulsive or related to ADHD


Panel notes new diagnoses don’t seem to meet Compliant PracticesIDEA eligibility model

Does a condition need to rise to level of IDEA eligibility, alone, to “count” for MD purposes?…


Why did it matter if behavior was related or not, if school only wanted 45-day removal for the weapon offense? Is this not moot?

See Pemberton case

Also see R. S. v. Corpus Christi ISD (controlled substances, 30-day placement, HO finds mootness)


  • Township HSD school only wanted 45-day removal for the weapon offense? Is this not (SEA Illinois 2010)

    Facebook threat not related to teen’s ADHD, Bipolar, borderline IQ

    HO finds link, says student did not intentionally violate school rules because “he did not fully comprehend the potential consequences” and did not intend to carry out the threat


Fulton County Sch. Dist. school only wanted 45-day removal for the weapon offense? Is this not

OHI student threatens to kill teacher

Team only addresses link to ADHD without addressing ODD, which they knew about

And, there was evidence of pattern of threats…


Scituate Pub. Schs school only wanted 45-day removal for the weapon offense? Is this not .

Asperger’s student having bad day, wants to go home, escalates by pulling on principal’s necktie

School interprets tie as a “weapon”

HO says no dice—not readily capable of injury, and no “possession” (control)


But, behavior not related to disability, since it was purposeful, calm escalation

HO says no evidence of lack of understanding of consequences… (slipping back to old thinking?...)


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