Behavior and Discipline

You know that your son is struggling in school. The school says that things aren’t that bad and to give it some time, but you know your son and you know that he is not okay.  You know you need help, but you aren’t sure where to begin.

Behavior problems are increasing and calls from the vice principal are becoming routine. 


The law requires that your school district appropriately address the behavior of any child with a disability that impedes his or her learning or the learning of others.

Special education services must be available to all children with disabilities – even those who have been suspended or expelled from school.

Your child’s ARD committee should consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to deal with behavior problems.  This requirement applies regardless of your child’s disability.

If you child already has a behavior plan or other IEP behavioral supports but they are not working, the ARD committee should meet to consider new or modified services.  

What’s a Manifestation Determination Review?

A Manifestation Determination is an IEP meeting consisting of the school administration, student’s parent/guardian, and relevant members of the student’s IEP team to review all the relevant information to determine if:

• The student’s conduct was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, their disability; or

• The student’s conduct was a direct result of the school’s failure to implement the student’s IEP.

If the IEP determines that the student’s conduct was either caused by or related to their disability or caused by the school’s failure to implement their IEP, the school must take immediate action to remedy those deficiencies. If the IEP determines that the student’s conduct was NOT caused by or related to their disability or the school’s failure to implement the IEP, then the disciplinary action leading up to this point is valid and the parents have the same rights and procedures to appeal as parents of students without disabilities – as described above and in accordance with the school district’s grievance process.

The Manifestation Determination meeting determined it was a manifestation – now what?

If it was determined that your child’s actions and conduct were a manifestation of their disability, the IEP team must either: • Conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) – unless one had previously been conducted – and implement a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) for your child; or

If your child already has a BIP in place, the IEP will review the BIP and modify it as needed to address your child’s behavior; and

• Return the child to their original placement they were removed from, unless the IEP team agree to a change of placement as part of the modification of the BIP.

The school found behavior a manifestation, but still placed my son in an alternative educational setting. Why?

There are a few types of student conduct where the school can remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting, whether it was determined their conduct was a manifestation of their disability or not. Such conduct includes:

• Carrying or possessing a weapon at school, on school property, or at a school function;

Knowingly using or possessing, selling, soliciting the sale of, or otherwise distributing a controlled substance while at school, on school property, or at a school function;

• Inflicting serious bodily injury on another person while at school, on school property, or at a school function.

What if I don’t agree with the MDR decision? 

If you disagree with the placement decision or the manifestation determination, you have the right to appeal the decision by requesting a hearing. The hearing is requested by filing a Due Process complaint pursuant to IDEA. While you can file a Due Process complaint on your own, it is always helpful to seek out an Education Law attorney to assist you with the Due Process hearing.

What if my child has not yet qualified for special education?

There are times when a student who has not been determined to either be eligible for special education or related services may be entitled to the same procedural safeguards as a student with a disability. If the school had knowledge that the student was a child with a disability before the conduct that resulted in the disciplinary action took place.

A school has knowledge when either:

• The parent/guardian of the child expressed concern in writing to school administrators or the student’s teacher(s) that the student was in need of either special education or related services;

• The parent/guardian requested the school evaluate their child for an eligibility determination for special education or related services; or

• The teacher or other school faculty expressed specific concerns about a pattern of behavior the student was engaging in to the director of special education or other supervisory faculty.

However, the school is considered not to have knowledge when the parent/guardian of the child has either not allowed the child to be evaluated or has refused services; or if the child has been previously evaluated and determined not to be a child with a disability.

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