Manifestation Determination in California

How can you prepare for a Manifestation Determination in California? Attorney at Brian R. Sciacca can help you with this. Call now for more info and advice!

What Is a Manifestation Determination?


Disciplining children in special education programs is a very delicate task. This is because sometimes the negative behavior, which may ordinarily attract sanctions, is not done on purpose but occurs due to the child’s disability.

So, when such a child with a disability has behaved in a way that would ordinarily attract suspension or expulsion, it is important to first determine whether the child’s disability caused the behavior before making a decision as to the applicable sanction. This process is known as a ‘manifestation determination.’

Manifestation determination is a formal procedure established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Code of Federal Regulations. It requires a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to review the child’s IEP, student records, teacher or parent observations, and any other relevant information to determine whether the child’s negative conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability and whether the child would require further behavioral intervention services. The decision whether or not to expel the child or change their placement also depends on the outcome of the manifestation determination.

Manifestation determination applies to children in special education nationwide. So, if your child with special needs is facing disciplinary action or expulsion from school in California, it is important that you understand what the process entails and your options after a decision has been reached. You can find more information on this below.

When Is Manifestation Determination Required?


Manifestation determination in California is required when a special education student has breached the California Education Code as well as the following:

  • Has been suspended for more than ten consecutive school days days

  • Has been suspended for ten cumulative days for the same or similar offenses

  • The student is facing expulsion.

In any of these circumstances, the school district organizes a manifestation meeting to determine if:

  • The behavior caused or has a direct relationship to the child’s disability

  • The behavior is a result of the school district’s failure to implement the child’s predetermined IEP

If the team affirms any of these two conditions, they can’t remove the student from their current educational position/placement. Instead, the team would need to take steps to ensure that all the services stated in the student’s IEP are provided as per the child’s needs. 

Also, as a parent, if your child has not been receiving the required IEP services, you can proceed to request compensatory education from the school.


What the IEP Team Does After an Affirmative Finding

If the team finds that the student’s behavior has a direct and substantial relationship to their disability, then they’ll need to find ways to address the negative behavior.

In such cases, the team could do any of the following:

  • Conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) if none has been done, and create a behavioral intervention plan (BIP)

  • Review or modify the BIP to address the undesirable behavior if the plan already exists

  • If the child had already been suspended or expelled, return the child to their previous status.


Negative Findings From the IEP Team

If the IEP team finds that the misconduct or behavior complained of is not related to a child’s disability or the failure of the child’s school to implement an individualized educational plan, the child would be subject to the relevant disciplinary procedures applicable to the offense committed just as a student without disabilities. Any suspension or expulsion made after such a finding would stand.

Special Circumstances: Where the Basis of the Child’s Behavior May Not Matter


In certain circumstances, school personnel may physically remove a special education student from their current placement to an interim educational setting without considering whether or not the student’s behavior is a manifestation of their disability.

This could happen in cases where the student:

  • Carries a weapon to school or is found in possession of a weapon on school grounds or at a school function

  • Knowingly carries or uses illegal drugs or sells or requests the sale of a controlled substance at school, within school premises, or at a school function

  • Has caused severe bodily injury to another person in school, on school grounds, or at a school function.

The student’s removal to the interim alternative educational setting should not last for more than 45 days, and the child’s parents must be notified by the school in such circumstances.

What Do I Do if I Disagree With the Outcome of a Manifestation Determination?


A negative manifestation determination outcome could severely affect your child’s education. If, as a parent, you disagree with the outcome of the manifestation determination, or the decision of the IEP team, all hope is not lost. You have the right to request a hearing in court. 

If you’re unsure how to proceed with this, you might want to consult a special education lawyer for help and legal advice. 

Your lawyer can represent you before the judge and offer reasonable arguments supporting your claim. This could significantly improve your chances with the judge and likely lead to the desired outcome – a reversal of the IEP team’s findings or decision.

Get Help With Your Manifestation Determination Issues From Experienced Special Education Attorneys in California


Adverse manifestation determination decisions could affect your child’s future and set them up with a behavioral tag they don’t deserve.

So, if you’re dissatisfied with the outcome of your child’s manifestation determination or if your child with special needs was expelled without a manifestation determination meeting, it’s important to seek redress before a judge. 

At the law firm of Brian R. Sciacca, Attorney at Law, we can represent you throughout the hearing process and offer you quality legal advice born out of several years of experience in Special education law practice.

We understand the sensitivity of issues that concern children, and we are committed to ensuring that your child doesn’t suffer any more than they already have.

We are located at 31787 5th Ave, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651, and you can contact us immediately to schedule a free consultation. We’d be glad to help you with all your special education legal needs.