In This Issue
IEP Checkup!
School is in session - Time for an IEP Checkup!  Is your child's IEP giving them all they need? Does it have the right goals, objectives and evaluation procedures?  Do the services and accommodations provide all they are entitled to?  If you want an IEP Checkup, Click HERE

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January 2020 E-Newsletter 


This E-newsletter is devoted to sharing information about special education, disability rights, mental health and human services law, policy and research that is of importance to people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals that work with them.

Information includes political issues, important research, legal developments, and information based on our experiences that we hope will help you personally in your individual and professional efforts.   It also provides updates and news about our firm and its activities.  We hope you find it helpful and welcome your comments and suggestions.  
                                                                   -Matt Cohen
ISBE hearing officer rejects CPS delays, postponements in due process hearings

Our firm and Legal Council for Health Justice received an important procedural ruling in a recent Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) due process hearing. 

CPS lawyers always argue they are overbooked and request lengthy postponements of pending due process hearings. The result is that the student experiences long delays in the potential provision of services because CPS lacks sufficient staff to conduct timely hearings. The hearing officer in our case rejected that excuse and said it was the district's responsibility to have staff available in order to have a timely hearing. READ MORE

Tribune/ProPublica document another horrific tale of abuse at one Lake County school
The fallout from the Chicago Tribune/ProPublica series on the use of seclusion rooms continues with the sordid story of Gages Lake School in Lake County. From August 2017 - December 2018, students at the school were secluded more times than students at all but one other Illinois school. Gages Lake put students in isolation more than 1,700 times last school year. And surveillance video documented 21 cases of abuse being investigated by the Department of Family and Child Services (DCFS).
But many questions remain, such as why are only low level paraprofessional staff being prosecuted? What isn't the administration being charged with neglect? How can this school continue to operate with dozens of vacant staff positions? Why is this school even allowed to remain open? READ MORE

Increased staff training is key to reducing the use of seclusion and restraint

A Loyola University Law professor shares her take on the use of seclusion rooms and its potential for abuse. While she commends the state for implementing emergency measures to the right the wrongs documented in the Tribune/ProPublica investigation, she notes that Illinois already had some of the best rules on the use of seclusion and restraint.
To be truly effective, the new laws need to be followed up with a commitment to increase funding for training in de-escalation techniques, restorative practices and behavior management because staff training is key to reducing the use of seclusion and restraint. READ MORE

Trump's not the first high-profile person to discredit those with disabilities and he won't be the last

Donald Trump's effort to discredit climate activist Greta Thunberg after Time Magazine selected her person of the year was a shameful afront to autistic individuals. But this essay by a Georgetown University Law professor with the same diagnosis as Thurnberg says such insults are nothing new.
"When people say they can't believe I am autistic, they mean it as a compliment. But the comment is really a backhanded insult, rooted in the fact that society defines disabled people as incompetent, inferior, and permanently infantile," she writes. READ MORE

"Ghost charters" drained half a billion dollars from taxpayers

A federal charter school funding program cost taxpayers more than a half a billion dollars on schools that either never opened or were shut down, according to a report by the Network for Public Good. And, the state with the largest number of schools that never opened was Michigan, the home of Education Secretary and charter cheerleader Betsy DeVos.
For the period studied, 2006 - 2014, the overall rate of failed charter schools was 37 percent, but some states reported much higher rates. In Iowa, for example, 10 out of the 11 charters funded by the federal program never opened. READ MORE  

Defrauded student loan borrowers get no help from U.S. Education Secretary DeVos

More than 200,000 student loan borrowers claim they were defrauded by for profit private colleges and they want their student loans forgiven. But U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is blocking their efforts, even though department officials support the students' legal claims.
A trove of emails obtained by NPR show that just weeks before DeVos was sworn in, career officials in the department recommended the borrowers get nothing less than full relief from their loans. But DeVos has authority to overrule her staff and she has done just that. READ MORE

Parent fundraising can make a school great, but at what cost?
This essay by former Denver teacher Anna Noble questions the "cost" of parent fundraising to bridge school budget cuts. At her school, parents were a force to be reckoned with, raising money to make sure the school had all the extras--drama, speech, debate, robotics, a garden--that the district didn't fund.
She felt fortunate until she started seeing how those powerhouse parent fundraisers exacerbated the inequities that plagued her district. Parent groups raise $425 million a year but those funds go to fewer than 10 percent of the nation's schools. "You can't fix it all, but you can fix it for your kid. That's the mantra we're conditioned to believe," she writes. But what if there were a different mantra? READ MORE

"Race to Nowhere" available for streaming, film highlights the cost of pressure to succeed on students

If you missed a screening of the excellent film, "Race to Nowhere," when it premiered several years ago, don't worry. The film is available for free streaming until Jan. 17.
The documentary follows the heartbreaking struggles and challenges of high school students pushed to the brink by overwhelming pressure to succeed--students who are over-tested, over-scheduled and totally stressed out. It challenges today's popular notions of student success and suggests there is a better way. READ MORE and SIGN UP HERE TO STREAM

Does separating gifted students really work? New York is asking the right questions

New York state is reviewing its policy of separating gifted students into special classrooms. The policy assumes that special gifted classrooms or schools are needed to provide enrichment and challenges for academically talented students.
But a body of research indicates separating gifted students does not help their academic achievement, measured primarily by standardized test scores. In fact, enrichment offered to students of all abilities produces not just more equity but better educational outcomes for all. READ MORE

Parents sought for research study on advocating for adult children with Autism

Parents of youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can participate in a research study testing a program that aims to improve parents' ability to advocate for adult services on behalf of their son or daughter with ASD. Parents of children with ASD between 16 and 26 years old may be eligible to participate. You must also be available to attend a 12-week training program. READ MORE

Recent Firm Successes
  • Secured placement at private therapeutic day school for high school student with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, general anxiety disorder, specific learning disabilities, and significant disability-related school refusal.
  • Supported home and school to collaboratively work to adjust programming to facilitate the student with Autism having success in the general education school with increased mainstreaming.
  • Secured residential placement and comp ed for HS student denied FAPE and homebound services for 2 years. 
  • Secured reinstatement of Eligibility and appropriate IEP for student with autism and ADHD who was only being offered a 504 plan. 
  • Secured safety plan for student who had been harassed by aide. 
MCA updated logo
Office news and updates

Matt Cohen has once again been selected  as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2020.  The distinction of being a Leading Lawyer has been earned by fewer than 5 percent of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Upcoming presentations
Matt Cohen, Brad Dembs and Elizabeth Hooper
The Role and Power of Independent Evaluations: How to Critically Evaluate and Use IEEs to Secure Appropriate Placements and Services
COPAA 22nd Annual Conference
Sunday, March 8, 2020, 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor
401 W. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
For conference information and details, visit
Matt Cohen
Keynote speaker
LDA of Illinois Annual Conference
October 30, 2020.  Details to come. 

Brochures Available 
We offer several different brochures related 
to the following topics: 
  • IEPs and 504 Plans - Navigating the Maze
  • Tips for Obtaining Accommodations for the ACT, SAT and other Placement Exams
  • Obtaining an Independent Educational Evaluation
  • Tips for Obtaining Appropriate Services for Your Child With Autism
  • Classroom Observation
To request multiple copies for your clients, 
please call us at 866-787-9270.   
Matt Cohen is the founder of the Chicago law firm Matt Cohen & Associates LLC.  

The practice is concentrated in representation of children and families in special education and discipline disputes with public schools, di sability rights advocacy, including advocacy for accommodations in admissions and licensing tests and in colleges and graduate schools and legal assistance to mental health and human services professionals and the organizations they work for. 

For more information about Matt Cohen and the staff, please visit our  website.
If you have any questions, please contact his assistant, Tami Kuipers at 866-787-9270  or 

book cover

   A Guide to Special Education Advocacy -
  What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know
   written by Matt Cohen
   published in 2009


    $20 plus $4.95 shipping 

    to order, call Tami at





The material in this enews has been prepared by Matt Cohen & staff for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.  We assume no responsibility for the accuracy or timeliness of any information provided herein. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. 


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