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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MCA updated logo
May 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
Good news: DeVos tells Congress to keep IDEA protections during pandemic

U. S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is NOT recommending any waivers of IDEA requirements during the COVID-19 crisis. Disability advocates had feared she would seek a waiver of key protections to give school districts more flexibility in providing legally required services.

Instead, her report to Congress recommends maintaining the law's requirement for a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and providing education in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  READ MORE  and    READ THE REPORT TO CONGRESS .

Matt Cohen and Associates is offering new services to assist parents and clinicians during these difficult times

The COVID-19 virus has created a huge disruption to our educational system as well as the rest of society. Many of you are now functioning, in ways, as your child's teacher or teacher's aide, oftentimes while you are working from home, as well.

Many of our clients have raised questions about their education rights during the crisis, what you should and can be expecting from the school, issues with remote learning and questions about compensatory services that may be due to children once they do return to school. 

In response, for a limited time, o ur firm is offering a number of new, free services to assist families during the pandemic. These include free IEP reviews and free case consultations with Matt or one of the other staff. We have also prepared the following materials to answer some of you questions: 
For more information, please visit our website and our Facebook page.

May webinars to assist you during these difficult times

Tuesday, May 5, 3:30 p.m.
Child Find and Evaluations: What to include in a request for school evaluations and tips for making private evaluations and reports as useful as possible by Brad Dembs.  Register in advance here.

Wednesday, May 6, 4 p.m.
Parents Ask the Lawyer with Matt Cohen.  Register in advance here.

Wednesday, May 13, 4 p.m.
Parents Ask the Lawyer with Matt Cohen. Register in advance here

Wednesday, May 20, 4 p.m.
Parents Ask the Lawyer with Matt Cohen.  Register in advance here.

After registering in advance, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Please refer to our website for more details.

The "Parent Ask the Lawyer" Zoom calls with Matt Cohen will be held every week at this date and time for the foreseeable future. 

Additional webinars on special education topics will be added in the next few days. Please check our  Facebook page or website for more information.

Pandemic laying bare education inequities that have existed for generations

The school closures during the pandemic have shined a light on the vast inequities in the nation's education system. Students from wealthier, generally whiter, families and communities--with more access to technology and family privileges--will be better able to transition to distance learning, while low-income students of color could again be left behind.
While inequities in education certainly exist, this Washington Post essay posits that the "achievement gap" is more than a product of an unequal education system. It reflects an unequal society and an "education debt" that schools alone cannot fix. That may be true, but the vast disparities in education for poor Black and brown students mean we will never know for sure. READ MORE

Chicago parents, advocates worry district is not providing full range of special ed services

Although the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has told schools they must continue to address the needs of students with disabilities during the pandemic, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) acknowledges it cannot provide the full range of services students receive--and are legally entitled to--in the classroom.
That worries parents and advocates. "The school closures have been hurtful to all kids, but students with disabilities are most vulnerable, and tend to react badly to transitions," said Chicago attorney Matt Cohen, who represents families with special education and school-related issues. "For special education students, school closures are not just a disruption but a regression, and we're going to see kids who actually go backward." READ MORE

Advocates want new stimulus package to boost spending on community-based services for the disabled

Disability rights advocates worry that the next round of federal stimulus spending will ignore the needs of home and community-based services, which are being hit hard by the coronavirus. 

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a coalition representing disability advocates, wants Congress to commit extra funds equivalent to 15 percent of states' Medicaid spending on those services.

"Broadly, in the packages that have passed, the very specific needs of the (disability) community have been all but ignored," one advocate said. With the virus spreading in large facilities housing individuals with disabilities, the spending is a critical safety issue. READ MORE

Chicago Public Schools struggles with digital divide as remote learning begins

As remote learning got underway in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in April, only half of the students who needed devices to access online education had gotten them. And CPS CEO Janice Jackson could not predict when and if all students would get the technology they need to stay connected to school.
CPS reported that just 146 schools out of some 500 plus schools had devices for every student and the district can't even guess how many students lack access to the Internet, without which a computer or tablet is worthless. READ MORE

Survey shows nearly half of nation's teens not engaged in distance learning

Almost half of all teens in a national survey say they haven't attended a single online learning class since the coronavirus prompted a wave of school shutdowns in mid-March. The survey, conducted by Common Sense Media March 24 to April 1, found that 41 percent of all students and 47 percent of public school students say they aren't participating in remote learning.
A significant resource gap and access to technology explains some of the lack of engagement, but young people also have other things on their minds. They are distracted by daily pandemic news and their own worries about family and friends. READ MORE

San Antonio Schools unable to reach 25 percent of elementary students during pandemic

Since schools closed March 16, the San Antonio Independent School District has lost contact with 25 percent of its elementary students. The district is distributing laptops to families with hopes that will help boost student engagement. But missing or out of date contact info for students is also a problem and school officials don't see an immediate solution to that. READ MORE
Sad new: MCA grieves the loss of friend and advocate Mike O'Connor

Mike O'Connor, a long time Chicago civil rights lawyer and special education advocate and partner in the special education law firm, Mauk & O'Connor, passed away in April. 

Mike lived his commitment to fighting against racism, disability discrimination, and economic injustice as a lawyer and as director of a variety of programs that served the disadvantaged. He served on the Board of Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and a number of other disability rights and service organizations. He will be missed. READ MORE

Recent Firm Successes
  • Secured continued private placement for several students.
  • Secured prospective funding for unilateral placement of student in residential program.
  • Secured prospective funding for placement of student in therapeutic day school.
  • Secured accommodation of extra time for medical student with disabilities for NBME Step exams.
  • Negotiated settlement for nursing student with disability for wrongful dismissal from practicum and secured rehabilitation of transcript.
MCA updated logo
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 2020  Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007. Matt also has 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.

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
May 2020 E-Newsletter


M att 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





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