The Toolbox is a training program designed to help campus administrators and special education staff to deal effectively with serious misconduct by students with disabilities. In the Toolbox, we offer a framework and a common vocabulary, focusing on 10 specific “tools” that are available under the law.
A manifestation determination review (MDR) is not one of the 10 tools. However, several of the tools involve the use of an MDR. The law requires ARD Committees to conduct an MDR when a disciplinary change of placement has been proposed. The specific language in the regs calls for an MDR “Within 10 school days of any decision to CHANGE THE PLACEMENT of a child with a disability BECAUSE OF A VIOLATION OF A CODE OF STUDENT CONDUCT.” 34 CFR 300.530(e)(1), emphasis added. Notice that you are required to do an MDR when 1) the student has violated the Code of Conduct and 2) a change of placement is called for.
Tool #6 in our Toolbox is a disciplinary change of placement, and would definitely require an MDR. But as a recent case illustrates, not every change of placement that is prompted by behavioral issues is a “disciplinary” change of placement. In a special education hearing officer’s decision from Colorado, the hearing officer concluded that the district improperly changed a student’s placement by failing to hold an IEP Team meeting, and failing to provide the parents with “prior written notice.” So this case comes under our “Don’t Try This at Home” category.
But the parents in the case also accused the district of violating the law by not conducting an MDR. On that issue, the hearing officer ruled in favor of the school. The change in placement was not based on a violation of the student code of conduct, and was not a disciplinary removal. It was based on safety concerns after three incidents in a short period of time that raised concerns about self harm, or harm to others. The district conducted a “building level threat assessment” and on that basis, moved the student to a different setting for about six weeks. As mentioned above, this was a “change of placement” and should have been authorized by the IEP Team. But the failure to conduct an MDR was not a legal violation.
The case is Jefferson County District R-1, decided by the Colorado Department of Education hearing officer on May 28, 2015. We found it at 66 IDELR 148.
I will continue to do Toolbox trainings in 2016, several of which are already booked. If you are interested in bringing the Toolbox to your district or ESC, please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Haley Armitage at email@example.com.
DAWG BONE: WE DO A MANIFESATATION DETERMINATION WHEN A CHANGE OF PLACEMENT IS CALLED FOR DUE TO A VIOLATION OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT