Investigating ​Special Education in New Mexico

Throughout 2019, Searchlight New Mexico reporters worked with hundreds of parents—conducting interviews, holding listening sessions, collecting and analyzing student education records—to investigate the state of special education. The overwhelming theme: children are not receiving legally-required disability services in school, and instead face disproportionate discipline, often ending up swept into the criminal justice system.

The following series is a result of that year-long investigation. Each story represents one of the four most common experiences described by parents.

Restraint, Seclusion, Deception

Parents, regulators left in the dark over school behavior management techniques

Read the Story

Who’s the Threat?

Hundreds of special ed students ID’d as potential threats

Read the Story

Criminalizing Disability

Special-needs kids who don’t get help in school are winding up in jail.

Read the Story

False Alarms

When schools abuse CYFD hotline, families suffer

Read the Story

Beyond punishment

A community forum on discipline and disability

On October 14, Searchlight New Mexico held a public forum on our investigations’ findings. The event was held in partnership with University of New Mexico Law School and featured our stories’ sources, parents, teachers, policymakers, and world-renowned classroom behavior expert Ross Greene. You can view a video of that event here.

Empowering the public

Searchlight New Mexico is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative and public service journalism in the interest of the people of New Mexico. Our mission is to deliver high-impact investigative reporting to inspire New Mexicans to demand action on systemic problems that plague our state. We believe that great reporting can motivate all New Mexicans to confront racial and economic inequities, government corruption and negligence, and abuses of power.


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We’re dedicated to investigative reporting and innovative data journalism.
Your donations help make a difference.


Support investigative journalism

Dedicated to investigative reporting and innovative data journalism, your donations help make a difference.


State of hope. State of mind.

Download Searchlight New Mexico 2020, and learn more about what Searchlight New Mexico is doing in the community.

Download Our 2019 Report