Toolbox Tuesday!! What happened at the MDR?

The Circuit Court’s decision in the case from California gives us little information about exactly what happened when the relevant parties got together to make a manifestation determination.  In the litigation, the parents alleged that they were not given proper notice of the meeting. 

Is that true? We don’t know. The court held that it didn’t matter. 

Why would the court say that? Isn’t it pretty important to let parents know when the MDR will take place?  Yes. It’s very important. 

But in this case the court held that any error committed by the district fell into the “harmless” category. That’s because:

At the January 18 MDR, AUSD concluded that N.F.’s behaviors were a manifestation of N.F.’s disability. This conclusion meant that no disciplinary action would be taken against N.F.  N.F.’s educational placement was not changed as a result of the MDR. Because the MDR did not affect either the educational opportunities or placement of N.F., it did not deprive him of a FAPE.

In Texas, Parents are entitled to five school days’ notice of the meeting when an MDR will be conducted. The school is also required to provide the parent with a new copy of the Procedural Safeguards document so that the parents can be well prepared for the meeting.  Meeting those procedural requirements is important. But as this case illustrates, procedural safeguards are there to protect substantive rights. If those substantive rights (FAPE, and meaningful parent participation) are not infringed, then the procedural error will be deemed harmless.

In our firm’s Toolbox Training we encourage you not to rely on that “no harm, no foul” standard. The better practice is to comply with all procedural requirements. 

It’s N.F. v. Antioch USD, decided by the 9th Circuit on May 2, 2022. It’s published in Special Educator at 81 IDELR 7.


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Tomorrow: another decision from Antioch….