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October/November 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

Public education advocates say goodbye and good riddance to Betsy DeVos

With Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on her way out, education advocates are looking to President Elect Joe Biden to replace her with someone who actually supports and believes in the mission of public schools.
DeVos' tenure was marked by support for charter and private schools, over traditional public schools, and an emphasis on testing and failed free market policies. READ MORE. 

Chicago to begin in-person school in January, despite COVID surge

At the same time Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker was announcing new restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was issuing a stay at home advisory, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced it would begin returning students to in-person instruction Jan. 11. The news came as other school districts across the state were returning to remote learning because of the COVID-19 surge.
Pre-k and cluster students will return first with the remaining elementary grades slated to return in February. READ MORE.

Transition programs suffer during pandemic

With many schools shut down and operating remotely since March, providing transition services for students with disabilities has been especially challenging. Advocates are pushing the state to consider allowing students to continue their education until the end of this school year. Otherwise, there is no way for students to make up the lost time.
Without that extension, young adults with disabilities will be left in limbo and parents will be left on their own to make a plan for post high-school services and training. READ MORE.

Congress proposes new restrictions on use of seclusion and restraint in schools

Illinois schools put students into seclusion more than 10,000 times during the 2017-18 school year, according to the latest data reported to the federal government. This represents a 50 percent increase from the last time districts detailed such data. 
Just days after the numbers were reported, Congressional Democrats introduced a bill to ban the practice and severely limit when restraints can be used. Dubbed the Keeping All Students Safe Act, the legislation would enact a nationwide ban on using restraints that can restrict breathing and would allow other methods of restraint only in cases where there is an immediate risk of physical harm. 

In-person learning or remote instruction poses difficult choice for sped parents

With Chicago Public Schools (CPS) pushing to return pre-K and cluster program students to in- person learning first, special ed parents have a difficult choice to make. While remote learning is difficult and parents see students regressing, many worry about the risks of the most medically vulnerable students returning to school buildings in the middle of a surging pandemic.
"At first glance, there is some logic" in prioritizing students who have more severe needs, Matt Cohen said. "But in reality, there are many kids who are not cluster-based who still are at risk of tremendous regression while they are at home and have great difficulty accessing some of the classes." READ MORE.

Important federal and state COVID guidance

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), within the U.S. Department of Education, issued a new guidance document that seeks to answer questions about implementing IDEA provision of services during the pandemic. READ MORE.

With new information on the spread COVID-19 available almost daily, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) earlier this month issued a new Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet for schools. READ MORE.

Illinois releases data on COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

It took media inquiries to make it happen, but Illinois is now sharing data about COVID-19 outbreaks in schools. In early October, the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica detailed the lack of school specific information available as school districts and parents weigh the risks of returning to in-person school during the pandemic. 

U.S. Supreme Court fight over Obamacare worries disability rights advocates

People with disabilities have a lot to lose if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), prompting 19 disability rights groups to file amicus briefs with the court supporting the historic law.
"People with disabilities have long struggled to access health care that actually meets their needs," one advocate said. "The ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits and Medicaid expansion are tremendous advancements in that fight, and the ACA's importance to the disability community cannot be overstated." READ MORE.

Recent Firm Successes

  • Negotiated school district funding of placement of kindergarten student with autism in a private therapeutic day school specializing in educating children with autism.
  • Negotiated district contribution towards payment of non-ISBE-approved residential treatment program for young adult with significant behavioral issues.
  • Negotiated reimbursement of private school tuition for elementary school student with ADHD who was inappropriately expelled from the school as a result of behavior related to his disabilities.
  • Assisted several parents in securing improvements to their child's remote learning plans.


Upcoming webinars and presentations

Compensatory Education: How to Position Yourself
Matt Cohen and Brad Dembs, Nov. 24, 3:30 p.m.
We will discuss the legal standards for measuring and proving the need for compensatory education, as well as strategies for how to document any regression or stagnation of skills. This is particularly significant for parents to know and be able to recognize now if their children are participating in remote learning. Register in advance.
Parent Ask the Lawyer
Matt Cohen will be hosting the following Ask the Lawyer webinars to answer your general questions about special ed law and advocacy. If you have specific questions about your child, please schedule a meeting with one of our staff.
Jan. 6, 4 p.m. Register in advance.
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
Ensuring special education happens during COVID
The Arc of Illinois
Tues., Jan 12, 2:30 p.m.
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

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 2021 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007. Matt also has been selected as an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2020The 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.