Toolbox Tuesday!! Lessons about manifestation determinations

In April, 2017, an ARD Committee in Conroe ISD concluded that the student’s conduct was not a manifestation of his disability because it was impulsive. In October of the same year the ARDC had to consider a new incident of misconduct. Again, the ARDC concluded that the student’s behavior was not a manifestation of his disability.  Why?  Because it was not impulsive.

I am reminded of the famous words of Ricky Ricardo to Lucy:  “Lucy….you got some ‘splainin’ to do.”  The district ‘splained it well enough to satisfy the hearing officer and the federal court.  In the Toolbox Training that our firm provides we talk about the role of the manifestation determination review (MDR). So let’s review this recent decision.

You can understand the parents making an issue of this. How can you have it both ways?  How can you say that the boy’s impulsive behavior is not a manifestation of his disability, and then, six months later, say that his behavior was not a manifestation because it was not impulsive?

Both the hearing officer and the court focused primarily on the October ARD meeting.  The parents had challenged the manifestation from April, but that matter had been settled. So the main focus was on the October decision. The district created a solid record to show that it considered all of the relevant information and its decision was supported by staff who knew the student well.  The incident under consideration was possession of stun guns and a controlled substance. The record showed that the student knew that he was not supposed to have these things at school, and planned carefully to avoid getting caught. As usual when the student is charged with possession of an improper item at school the “impulsivity” argument did not work. 

The parents also argued that the MDR had been predetermined.  This was largely based on the fact that the diagnostician projected a draft of the MDR document on a screen for all to see at the beginning of the meeting.  The draft document was already filled out, indicating the ARDC’s conclusion that there was no manifestation. 

“Lucy…..”  Once again, the district ‘splained this problem away.  All of the school staff testified that they understood this to be only a draft to get the conversation started. And there was a good conversation, including a thorough review of records.  The parents’ argument was hurt by the fact that the parent was given the opportunity to speak up at the meeting, but declined to do so. Key Quotes:

The Committee asked [the dad] for comments and opinions, but he declined to provide additional information. 

At the meeting, the District representatives asked [the dad] opinion on the manifestation link.  [The dad] did not ask any questions or provide additional information on the implementation of [the student’s] IEP. 

[The plaintiff] offers no reason to believe that the School District “would not have listened to, and considered” [the dad’s] position at the MDR meeting.  The record evidence shows that the ARD Committee considered the relevant information before it decided to adopt the draft. Without more, [the student] fails to show that the School District violated the IDEA by preparing a draft decision before the MDR meeting.

The case is M.V. v. Conroe ISD, decided by the federal court for the Southern District of Texas on January 15, 2019. We found it at 2019 WL 193923.


Tomorrow: Cuffing a six-year old.