Sometimes, children with disabilities behave in ways that would ordinarily be labeled "bad behavior." Sometimes these children are simply acting out as children tend to do. However, disabled children often may act out in ways that are directly tied to their disabilities. As a result, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that if a disabled child misbehaves, a manifestation determination review (MDR) must be conducted before the child can be suspended for up to 10 days in a row.
A MDR hearing aims to determine whether the child's behavior was in essence caused by his or her disability or the behavior was a result of some other factor. During the hearing, the child's educators are compelled to review any relevant information that may point to whether or not the behavior should be linked to the child's disability. Given that MDR hearings often result in flawed determinations against the interests of disabled children, it is important for parents to understand that they have the right to challenge the school's conclusions and even the school's initial actions.
Parents also have the right to challenge due process hearings and their conclusions if disabled children are at risk of being suspended for more than 10 consecutive days. These hearings are more complex and require certain kinds of notice, evidence sharing and witness questioning.
During either of these kinds of disciplinary hearings, parents and disabled students may substantially benefit from having an attorney experienced in education law present. If you have questions about MDR or due process educational reviews, please do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney for help.