Category Archives: Dawg Bones

A deep dive into “educational need”

This is the third Daily Dawg entry this week about a case in California. The court held that the school missed the boat on its Child Find duty as I explained on Monday.  One reason this happened is because of the misunderstanding in the school about LRE.  We discussed that yesterday. All of what we have told you about so far occurred in the student’s sophomore year of high school.  Today we focus on what happened in the student’s junior and senior years of high school. 

For those two years the student was placed by the parent in a residential facility that offered no educational services. Instead, the facility sent its residents to the local public school. This student was assigned to general classes with no IEP, and a minimal 504 plan. And guess what?  She attended that school for two years and did well.  The court concluded that this showed that the student did not need specially designed instruction (AKA “special ed”). 

This is the rare case that makes a deep dive into “educational need.”  When we say that a student “needs” special education, we are saying that the student’s disability requires a special kind of instruction. It requires changes in the content, the methodology, or the delivery of instruction.  The residential facility did provide “academic support” which involved structure, study periods, and planning.  Is that “special education”?  Is it “specially designed instruction”? The court said no:

…nothing in the record suggests that Ms. Johnston provided instruction that adapted the content, methodology, or delivery of N.N.’s general education curriculum. 

The Court agrees with the District that the support Ms. Johnston provided to N.N. resembles the kind of support a parent provides for a child at home.

Well…that’s the kind of support WE WISH every parent would provide at home.

Not every hearing officer or court would analyze the situation in this much detail.  But this opinion is firmly grounded in the law. We toss around the term “educational need” a lot. This case tells us what that term really means.  It means that the student’s disability requires changes in what or how the student is taught. 

It's N.N. v. Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, decided by the federal court for the Northern District of California on August 4, 2022. 


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Tomorrow:  continuing my travels and work as a teacher’s aide….


Subscribing to and reading the Law Dawg is one of the most mature things an educational professional can do.  It falls into the category of IMPORTANT but not URGENT.  It’s a mark of maturity when you regularly take care of things that are IMPORTANT but not URGENT.

The most mature thing I do is to go to the dentist.  I can still remember sitting in the dentist’s chair as a child, surrounded by large people, instruments of torture and whirring sounds.  I was terrified.   I vowed then: “When I grow up, I am NEVER going to do this!”

But now I do, even when I am not weeping and suffering with a toothache. I think this proves that I must be a grown up. After all, there are four unpleasant realities about going to the dentist.  First, it takes time that could be spent in a more enjoyable way. And almost anything is more enjoyable.  Second, it costs money.    Third, it sometimes hurts.  Fourth, even when it doesn’t hurt, I am afraid that it will hurt.

Despite all that, I go to the dentist regularly.  Upon returning from one of these visits, I typically spend the rest of the day patting myself on the back for my maturity.  What a Big Boy I am!!  After all, one feature of maturity is the ability to deal with what is important, but not urgent.  Preventive dental care is important, but not urgent.  We go to the dentist regularly so that it never becomes urgent. A throbbing toothache creates urgency, but no one wants that.

Educators are in the maturity development business. The goal is to help students understand what maturity means, and to develop those habits that cultivate maturity.  Balancing the checkbook.  Rotating the tires.  Changing the air conditioner filters.  Going to the dentist.  All of those “maintenance” tasks are important, but rarely urgent.

Thus we launch this new enterprise as an adventure in maturity. We hope you will find the daily posts helpful, relevant, timely and occasionally entertaining.  Here’s your Dawg Bone for the day:


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