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Back in 1988, in a case called Honig v. Doe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a school board in California had violated the law when it indefinitely suspended a student for violent and disruptive behavior that was related to his disability. The student was a seventeen-year-old who had difficulty controlling his impulses and anger, and he was eligible for special education as a student with an emotional disturbance.


The case established that a student with a disability cannot be removed by a school district for more than ten school days during a school year for misconduct related to the student's disability. 

What is a Manifestation Determination?

A manifestation determination review is held before some 

disciplinary proceedings

A couple of years later, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) codified this ruling by the Supreme Court in Honig v. Doe with specific provisions requiring what is called a "manifestation determination" review. Under the IDEA, before a school district may initiate disciplinary proceedings, such as an expulsion hearing, and change a student's school placement by removing them from school a school district must conduct a manifestation review. 

IDEA defines 'change of placement'

The IDEA defines a change of placement for disciplinary removals as a removal of more than ten consecutive school days or a series of removals that constitute a pattern because they accumulate to more than ten days in a school year.

Students with disabilities can be suspended and expelled 

Students with disabilities are subject to the same suspension rules as nondisabled students, except that suspensions of students with disabilities cannot exceed ten consecutive days without a “manifestation determination.”


This means that students with disabilities may be suspended for up to ten days during a school year without a manifestation determination meeting being held. The school district must inform the parent in writing of suspension.

The purpose of a manifestation determination meeting

The purpose of a manifestation determination is to determine whether a student with a disability may be expelled or have their placement changed due to their misconduct. 

What happens during a manifestation determination meeting?

A manifestation determination meeting is to be held within ten days of the school district's decision to expel the student or change their placement.

During the manifestation determination meeting, the IEP team will review all relevant information in the student's files. And the team will answer two questions:

1. was the student's behavior caused by, or did it have “a direct and substantial relationship” to, the student's disability;

2. was the student's behavior the direct result of the district's failure to implement the IEP? 

If the answer to either question is "yes" the student cannot be expelled. And a change of placement requires the parent's consent or an order from an administrative law judge. Unless the offense is serious, the student must return to their original placement. If the offense is serious, the school district may change the student's placement for up to forty-five days.


The school must conduct a behavioral assessment or modify their existing behavior plan.

If the answer to both questions is "no" the child may be referred for expulsion.

A parent may challenge a school district's manifestation determination recommendation

If the parent disagrees with the IEP team's recommendation, the parent may file for due process with the Office of Administrative Hearings to dispute the team's manifestation determination recommendation. 

Call Education Attorney Molly Watson if you need to challenge the IEP team's manifestation determination of your child: 530-273-2740.

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