A Manifestation Determination Review ("MDR") is a process that is conducted when a student who has been identified as having a disability commits a violation of the student code of conduct that results in suspension for more than 10 school days, or when the student is recommended for expulsion. The purpose of the MDR is to determine whether the conduct was a result of the student's disability. If it is determined that the conduct WAS NOT a result of the student's disability, then the child can be disciplined in the same manner as any other child who commits a similar infraction. However, if it is determined that the conduct WAS a result of the child's disability, then the school must take additional steps to address the behavior.
So how does this process work? Well, first, it's important to understand that not every child with a disability is entitled to an MDR. In order for an MDR to be conducted, three criteria must be met:
1. The child must have been identified as having a disability;
2. The child must have committed a violation of the student code of conduct that resulted in either suspension for more than 10 days or expulsion; and
3. There must be reason to believe that the conduct was a result of the child's disability.
If all three of those criteria are not met, then an MDR should be conducted.
Assuming all three criteria are met, though, there are still several steps that need to be taken before an MDR can occur. The school should offer an MDR, but if it is not offered, and you believe your student meets ll three criteria, you can request an MDR. Regardless of who initiates the MDR process, the parents or guardians must be notified in writing that an MDR is going to take place. This notification must include:
1. A description of the alleged infraction;
2. An explanation of why there is reason to believe that the conduct was a result of the child's disability; and
3. A statement informing parents or guardians of their right to participate in the meeting and bring any relevant information they feel would be helpful in making a determination.
The meeting itself will typically involve school staff, parent or guardian input (if they choose to participate), and sometimes even input from the child him- or herself. It's important to remember that this meeting is not about punishment; rather, it's about understanding what led to the incident and finding ways to avoid future problems.
The Manifestation Determination Review process can be confusing, or even daunting; but it's really just a way to ensure students with disabilities are not being punished for behavior that is related to or substantially caused by their disabilities. If you would like assistance requesting an MDR, advocating at an MDR meeting, or you believe that your child was unlawfully denied an MDR, contact the North Carolina Education Lawyer.