What Is a Student Manifestation Hearing and Why Is It So Important?


Meeting of manifestation team for student

Last Updated on August 20, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

When a special education student is placed up for school expulsion and/or an involuntary change of placement, schools must convene a special IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting within ten days. This meeting is known as a student manifestation hearing. This is a critical meeting for a special needs student and their future.

What Is A Manifestation Hearing Team Trying To Decide?

At this special IEP meeting, the manifestation team is supposed to make a “manifestation determination.”  This is an evaluation of the student’s conduct, and whether it resulted because of or is directly related to the student’s disabilities.

Manifestation hearing decision
It can be difficult to determine if a student’s disabilities caused their actions.

What is a Manifestation Determination?

What is or is not a manifestation of a student’s disabilities is defined in federal law.

Per volume 20 of the United States Code (USC) section 1415(k)(1)(E), manifestation hearing teams must determine, prior to student expulsion or an involuntary change of placement:

1)  If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability; or
2)  If the conduct in question was the direct result of the local educational agency’s failure to implement the IEP.

If the team answers either of these questions “yes,” the school/ school district may not move forward with a student expulsion and/or an involuntary change of placement.  The student will then be returned to their normal school placement unless the manifestation team agrees otherwise or certain exceptions apply.

Prepare for the Manifestation Hearing

It is very important that when parents are notified of any manifestation meeting, they prepare. Arguments need to be made and backed up that the conduct was related to the student’s disabilities. Failure to implement the student’s IEP plan also needs to be asserted and backed up.  

Parents must develop and bring their own proof.  Such evidence may be found in student records and outside sources, such as letters from therapists or educational psychologists.

manifestation meeting
A manifestation hearing is an important meeting and will determine if an expulsion moves forward or not

Manifestation Hearing Appeal

If the manifestation team decides the student’s conduct was not a “manifestation” and the expulsion moves forward, parents can appeal. Appeals of manifestation hearing determinations are expedited and may be filed with the Office for Administrative Hearings.  

As the manifestation team outcome may stop the expulsion or transfer process completely, it is critical that parents take a proper stand at the student’s manifestation hearing. They may also need to challenge the findings of the manifestation team if they disagree with them.


Student attorney Michelle Ball helps parents with manifestation meetings, special education, school expulsion and discipline issues, as well as resolving student problems in schools. As a Sacramento education lawyer, Michelle Ball assists throughout the state of California, from Eureka to Santa Cruz to Anaheim and many other California locations.

[originally published February 9, 2011]