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January 2021 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

CPS special ed parents frustrated with remote learning

Chicago Public School (CPS) special ed parents are concerned their students are falling behind and not receiving the services they need and are legally obligated to through remote learning. But sending students back to in-person instruction also worries them, too.  
"A high percentage of the kids are not getting anything approaching what they need," Matt Cohen said. "I'm concerned that this is going to really result in a reduction of expectations of what the school is supposed to do." READ MORE

Matt Cohen recognized as someone to watch

The Twice Exceptional (2E) Community recently recognized Matt Cohen as one of 22 people to watch, with a profile in the fall 2020 Variations Magazine. 

"He is the only lawyer in Illinois who will take on 2E students as clients against powerful school districts, to help get their needs met," one colleague says." I've not seen anyone besides Matt be willing to touch that with a 10-foot pole." READ MORE.

Will COVID vaccine help speed up school reopening?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers the nation's 3 million plus teachers essential workers who could receive the new coronavirus vaccine in the next wave of shots, after health care workers.
But states have considerable flexibility in how they prioritize the roughly 87 million workers categorized as essential. And, even if all teachers received the vaccine, mitigation strategies like masks and social distancing still would be needed before schools can reopen safely. READ MORE.

Most CPS parents opt to keep children remote, despite district push to reopen

Just 37 percent of CPS parents say they will send their children back to school this month for in-person instruction. And, despite CPS arguments that in-person learning is needed to address racial inequity, most of the families returning to school buildings will be white.
Only about a third of Black and Latinx families plan to send their students back when schools begin reopening next week. Twice that many white parents say they will. READ MORE.
Chicago educators, parents worry about reopening plan for cluster program students

CPS students in cluster programs will be among the first to return to in-person learning next week. But educators and parents have a lot of questions about what the school day will look like and, unfortunately, not a lot of answers.
"They're building the plane while it's flying," says one CPS school social worker who is worried about returning to her windowless office. "Central office has nothing for us. That has been the biggest frustration, and the biggest fear." READ MORE.

Fewer COVID infections, but more death in individuals with developmental disabilities 

COVID-19 impacts individuals with developmental disabilities differently, according to a study by researchers at Syracuse University. Overall, people with those disabilities are 60 percent less likely to contract the virus, but they are 2.8 times more likely to die from it.
However, the survey, which analyzed data from California, found that the setting in which individuals live greatly predicts outcomes, with individuals in group homes more at risk. READ MORE.

Test results show remote learning exacerbating racial education gaps

The true, long-term impact of pandemic-induced remote learning on students may not be known for years. But the latest report from NWEA testing indicates that the pandemic is exacerbating long-standing racial disparities.
The latest NWEA report, which analyzed the test results of 4.4 million U.S. students grades three through eight, found most fell short in math but did better than expected in reading. The same can't be said for Black and Latinx students and those in high-poverty schools. READ MORE.

What does it mean to get an "F" during a pandemic?

A recent Rand Corp. study found that more teachers are assigning grades this fall than in the spring, when remote learning got off to a rough start in most school districts. The report also shows that failing grades are concentrated among low-income students of color, English language learners and students with disabilities.
The data raises questions about the culture of grading in general but especially at a time when COVID-19 is impacting every facet of life, including student learning. "What we'll end up measuring is whether a kid has a caregiver at home, has internet, a device," one parent said. "I keep hearing that our kids are failing, and I ask, 'Well, failing at what?" READ MORE.

Thoughts on Biden's new Secretary of Education

The Network for Public Education expressed guarded optimism about President Elect Biden's choice of Miguel Cardona for Secretary of Education.
"I am still hoping for a Secretary who recognizes that the past twenty years have been a nightmare for American public schools, their students, and their teachers," NPE President Diane Ravitch writes. "I am still hoping for someone who will publicly admit that federal education policy has been a disaster since No Child Left Behind and its kissing-cousin Race to the Top, modified slightly by the "Every Student Succeeds Act." Maybe Dr. Cardona will be that person. We will see." READ MORE.

Recent Firm Successes

  • Secured district funding for parents' choice of educational services for two young adults with cognitive impairment and autism as compensatory education for the district's failure to provide appropriate programming, before and during the pandemic. 
  • Negotiated for change of teacher for elementary school student with severe anxiety who was demonstrating significant negative emotional effects of placement in virtual classroom due to teacher's tone and communication style. Also secured updated 504 plan and evaluations for special education.
  • Secured reimbursement and ongoing residential placement for student with PTSD. 
  • Negotiated a change to the remote learning plan to provide more specialized, push in instruction.
  • Obtained district funding for private therapeutic day school and transportation for 7th grade student with learning disabilities and ADHD.
  • Obtained district funding for private therapeutic day school placement, mileage reimbursement, and reimbursement for private neuropsychological evaluation for 8th grade student with multiple learning disabilities.  
Upcoming webinars and presentations

Parent Ask the Lawyer
Jan. 20, 4 p.m. Register in advance.
After registering in advance, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinars. Please refer to our website and our Facebook page for more information.

Matt Cohen and William Hrabe, Equip for Equality
Compensatory Education and Class Complaints: Identifying and Delivering Appropriate Remedies Following District-Wide Denial of Services
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) Virtual Summit
March 4 - 6
Matt Cohen (With Andy Faust and Jessica Varn)
Lehigh University Special Education Law Conference
You Be the Judge--Mock Special Education Due Process Hearing
June 21, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Eastern Time

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Office news and updates

Matt Cohen is once again a contributing author for the K and W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities, published by Penguin Random House. His article, "10 Things College Students with Disabilities Need to Know About their Rights," will appear in the 15th edition of the guide.

Matt Cohen & Associates has been selected the Best Local Business for the 2020 Best of Chicago Awards. The award recognizes the firm's commitment to community service.

Matt Cohen again has been selected by his peers as a 2021 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007. Matt also has been selected as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2021The distinction of being a Leading Lawyer has been earned by fewer than 5 percent of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Brochures Available 
We offer several different brochures related 
to the following topics: 
  • Introduction to College Accommodations
  • 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.   

MCA updated logo


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, disability 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 and to view this email in your browser, 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

    866-787-9270 or 



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. 


We would be pleased to communicate with you via email.  However, if you communicate with us through the Web site regarding a matter for which we do not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged and confidential.  Do not send us confidential, proprietary or other sensitive information until you speak with one of our attorneys and receive authorization to send that information.  Matt Cohen is providing this enews, the information, listings, and links contained herein only as a convenience to you.