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MCA updated logo

May 2019 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

Democratic presidential candidates weigh in on special education, IDEA

Since adoption of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) graduation rates for people with disabilities have increased 45 percent and drop out rates have decreased. But the federal government has never come close to the 40 percent funding promised by the law. 

The Disability Rights Center asked the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to explain how they would strengthen IDEA as president. Senator Bernie Sanders' platform on the issue is far stronger than other candidates.  READ MORE
Tips on using a new court ruling to bolster your case for inclusion at your next IEP meeting
A ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a Tennessee case is being heralded as a "watershed" moment for students with disabilities who are fighting for inclusion in their public schools. The court ruled that the school district violated a 15-year old boy's right to a Free and Appropriate Education in the Least Restrictive Environment when he was forced to attend a separate school.  
The ruling also clarified that federal disability law does not require a child to master or keep up with the curriculum in a general education classroom in order for inclusion to be a viable option. Instead, the measure should be whether the child can make academic progress given the appropriate supports and services. READ THIS ARTICLE for tips on how to use the ruling at your next IEP meeting and READ THE FULL RULING HERE
DeVos continues to block Obama-era rules addressing racial disparities in special ed

For over a year, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been trying to block implementation of a law passed during the Obama administration to address racial disparities in special education. The regulations went into effect in January 2017 but states had until July 2018 to implement them. Two days before the deadline, the Education Department put the new rules on hold, prompting a lawsuit by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPPA). COPPA won the case in U.S. District Court but the department has appealed the ruling.

The new rules would implement a standardized program for monitoring how states identify and provide services to minority students. They are important because of the debate over whether students of color are over identified or under identified for services. The lengths the administration has gone to in order to block the new rules is frustrating and confounding advocates and lawmakers. READ MORE
New research shows "school to guardianship" pipeline really does exist

The right to marry, to determine one's own friends, to vote, to seek and retain employment, to consent to medical procedures, to drive, to decide where to live and many other rights can be denied to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities once guardianship is granted. So, a new report that finds evidence of a "school to guardianship" pipeline is raising concerns. The research was conducted by the National Council on Disability (NCD). READ MORE
Schools' racial make-up impacts whether students of color are identified as eligible for special education

Are students of color identified for special education too often or not often enough? Researchers have been trying to answer that question for years.
Nationally, 14 percent of white students aged three to 21, 16 percent of black students and 13 percent of Latinx students receive services. But according to new research, those numbers don't tell the entire story. Other factors, like the racial make-up of the school may influence whether students of color are identified as needing special education. READ MORE

Does money really matter when it comes to education?

Would more money make a difference in educational outcomes? That's an important question for Illinois, where the state board of education recently acknowledged it would take $7 billion to properly fund all public schools. But for anti-tax advocates, many local and state politicians, Betsy DeVos and her boss Donald Trump, the answer is always a resounding "No."
It turns out money can make a big difference in a school's success, if enough is spent and if it's spent on the right things. Several research studies from the last five years provide examples of cases where new investments in teacher salaries, school construction and services for high-needs, low-income students paid off with higher academic performance. In fact, one study found that teachers who were paid more actually performed better. READ MORE

More than good intentions needed to provide real restorative justice programs

A personal essay by a Denver classroom teacher details what's missing in many restorative justice programs. He explains that his school did its best. They made space for restorative justice practices and discussions within the school and tried to limit suspensions and expulsions. But staff and administrators had little training in the practice and they lacked funding for outside partners, alternative activities for students or therapy services. 
"Limiting suspension-worthy offenses and passing around a stuffed animal are no substitute for a well-run restorative justice program," he writes. "Our tool box was empty." READ MORE
What our clients say...

"I had the Dream Team helping me fight for my 6th grade daughter during the past five months. If you ever find yourself needing an advocate and/or an attorney to help you secure special education services for your child, I HIGHLY recommend the office of Matt Cohen and Associates (we used Brad Dembs), and Educational Advocacy and Consulting (especially Carol Dimas). I cannot say enough good things about these professionals. They helped my daughter get everything she needs and deserves. We finalized her IEP yesterday!!!"

In the news...

NPR reports on the national shortage of special education teachers but the story hits close to home in Chicago and Illinois, where we are facing our own staffing challenges. 

After more than a decade of cutbacks for state-funded agencies that serve people with disabilities in Illinois, advocates are warning a 3.5 percent increase for those agencies will not be enough to ensure services are provided. 

Chicago's Inspector General is criticizing the Chicago Police Department for its lack of training and clear policies for officers stationed in schools, giving ammunition to community groups and activists who want police out of schools. 

Recent successes at the firm
  • Secured 150 percent time on ACT for student with anxiety disorder and Crohn's disease. 
  • Secured continued services beyond 12th grade for student with Learning Disabilities (LD)
  • Obtained reimbursement for cost of unilateral placement and prospective placement in private LD school and Assistive Technology (AT) eval to address technology needs. 
  • Secured funding for private placement for student with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma at school. 
  • Secured two years placement and reimbursement of transportation at school for kids with LD after team acknowledged local school could not meet student's needs and District failed to follow through on its promise to offer a different program. 
  • Placement of student with severe violent behavior at home to residential treatment program selected by parent after long effort by school district to place elsewhere. Also successfully blocked hospital discharge and negotiated with Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for non-finding of abandonment resulting from lockout. 
  • Secured placement in therapeutic school rather than inappropriate self-contained classroom for student with learning and emotional problems. 
  • Negotiated role of private Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to support school's Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) .
  • Secured an appropriate reading program. 
  • Secured a change in placement to an appropriate alternative school. 
  • Negotiated with the district to secure a placement at an appropriate therapeutic day school.  
  • Secured therapeutic day school placement for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) student with Autism.
  • Obtained reimbursement for cost of residential placement  
  • Secured therapeutic day school placement for CPS student with learning disabilities and anxiety disorder.
  • Secured appropriate placement and services for student with Autism.
  • Secured removal of onerous University requirements for retaking classes and additional payment for same for student denied reasonable accommodations in her university program and subjected to retaliation for challenging school refusal to accommodate.
MCA updated logo 
Office News and Updates

Matt Cohen was honored in June by the Illinois Attorney General's Office for his 25 plus years of service as chair of the agency's Special Education Committee. Matt says he is proud of the work he's done on the committee and grateful for the recognition. He chose to step down at this time to focus his energy on his clients and other pro bono activities.

Matt Cohen has, once again, been selected as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2019 - 2020. 
Matt Cohen currently serves on the boards of the national Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), where he is a founding board member, and Our Place of New Trier Township, a community-based program for young adults with disabilities.  
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, disability rights advocacy 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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