18 Days of Early Dismissals Constitute a Pattern Requiring a Manifestation Determination Review

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In South Bronx (NY) Classical Charter School, 59 IDELR 231 (OCR 2012) the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the school's frequent early dismissals of a kindergartner with a speech/language impairment required a manifestation determination (MD) meeting  before excluding the student from school for more than 10 days. Per Section 504 (and the IDEA) school districts cannot discipline students with disabilities  by excluding them from school for more than 10 consecutive school days or, in some cases, nonconsecutive school days, without first conducting a manifestation determination (MD) review. In this case, the school district suspended the child for one day for making a gun sign with his fingers and stating he was going to kill his teacher. The school implemented a series of early dismissals to control the student's inappropriate behaviors. Those behaviors included  failing to cooperate and follow directions, yelling, howling, and throwing items at school staff. The student was released from school at 1 p.m. from Oct 11, 2011 through Oct.  17, 2011 and from noon on Oct. 18, 2011 through Oct. 28, 2011. The district did not provide him with supplemental instruction on those early release days.

The parent filed a complaint with OCR which initiated an investigation. OCR determined that, although the student's exclusions were not for consecutive or full days, they amounted to a pattern that significantly changed his placement. As a result, before excluding the student for more than 10 school days, the district should have convened a group of knowledgeable persons to determine whether the student's conduct was a manifestation of his disability. To remedy the violation, the school district agreed to provide training to its staff regarding the requirements of 504 relating to disciplining students with disabilities and appropriately implement those requirements. The school district has also agreed to provide additional school services to compensate the student for the time he missed due to the early dismissals.