NH parents push for special education watchdog, face opposition

Nicole Sheaff remembers her third-grader’s learning environment not as a “classroom” but a “closet.”

Her daughter, who receives special education services at Exeter School District, spent most of the third-grade separated from non-special education students, learning in a separate room during library, art, music, physical education, and recess periods, Sheaff told lawmakers this month.

The treatment was not unusual. Many New Hampshire school districts separate students with individualized education plans, pairing those students with special education teachers rather than integrating the children into a classroom with the rest of their peers. But in pushing back against the practice, Sheaff felt she did not have adequate resources. And as a mother of four children with disabilities who receive IEPs, she now points to many times when she says the school district restrained and excluded her children, while offering limited instructional time.