Upcoming Matt Cohen and Associates Webinars

Masks and retunring to in-person school
Matt Cohen
Oct. 19, 4 p.m. 
Matt will discuss the new school mask mandates and the circumstances under which a student may either be a) exempt from wearing a mask or b) entitled to receive remote services because they are unable to safely come to school due to the pandemic. Register in advance.

Tansportation, Aide Support and Overall Staff Shortages
Matt Cohen 
Oct. 26, 4 p.m.

Matt will discuss the impact of the shortage of support staff, such as drivers and
school aides, its impact on the delivery of regular and special education services, and strategies to advocate for your child's needs.

Compensatory Education and Covid
Brad Dembs, Matt Cohen
Nov. 2, 4 p.m.

Matt and Brad will discuss compensatory education, both generally and in relation to a possible right to compensatory ed based on loss of services during the pandemic.

When Your Child Needs Help: Special Ed and Other Services
Brad Dembs
Nov. 9, 4 p.m.

This presentation will provide a basic overview of special education rights and how to access appropriate services, including obtaining evaluations and special education and/or Section 504 eligibility, the IEP process, and available services at school.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

MCA successfully resolved emergency situation for client by filing in federal court

Our client was scheduled to be discharged from his private residential treatment facility despite not having another placement to transition to. This would have resulted in a catastrophe for the family and potential forced relinquishment of custody to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
MCA quickly filed a due process hearing request to trigger the stay-put protection of the IDEA and effectively block the placement from releasing our client. However, on the day before the scheduled discharge, the placement indicated that they still intended to move forward with discharge despite our hearing request.

Unfortunately, the due process hearing system would not have been able to provide an order in the short time we had before the discharge, so we filed a complaint and emergency motion to enforce stay-put in federal court. The judge heard our case promptly on the morning that the discharge was set to take place and agreed with our position that stay-put must be maintained in the current placement while our due process complaint was pending. As a result, the facility was forced to stand down and not discharge our client and the school district was obligated to continue to provide funding for the placement.

A crisis was averted due to the swift action of the MCA team. This case highlights a growing problem with insufficient and inadequate private facilities available on the ISBE "Approved" list. We have begun an effort to get ISBE to improve the situation. Congrats to MCA attorney Brad Dembs for spearheading this effort. 

Three years later, CPS special ed students still waiting for reforms
After a WBEZ/Chicago Sun-Times investigation found CPS lagging for three years on promised reforms to its special ed program, the district announced it will provide cash payments to thousands of students who were harmed. CPS identified some 10,000 students who suffered delays or denials of services from 2014 - 2018.
The compensatory payments are the result of a state investigation, litigated by Matt Cohen and other special education advocates, that resulted in a state monitor overseeing CPS’ special ed department to this day. Read more from WBEZ. 
CPS families struggling to access extra school year for their students with disabilities
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a new law this summer that allows special ed students who turned 22 during the pandemic school year to return to classrooms for an additional year. But as school began Aug. 30, parents were finding it difficult to take advantage of their new rights.
Normally, students with disabilities age out of CPS when they turn 22. The new law is designed to compensate students for the educational experiences lost during the pandemic. CBS-2 Chicago has the full story.
Five mental health days allowed for Illinois students beginning in January
Starting in January, students across Illinois will be able to take up to five mental health days, thanks to a new law signed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker this summer. The new law is one of several designed to address the trauma and stress students faced during the pandemic.
Other states, such as Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia have passed similar bills allowing students excused absences due to mental health issues. Get the full story from NPR.
Court sides with South Carolina parents, overturns state ban on mask mandates  
Parents of disabled children have successfully sued the state of South Carolina, arguing that its mask mandate ban discriminates against their students with medical vulnerabilities. A federal judge agreed, saying it wasn’t even a close call. 
“It is noncontroversial that children need to go to school. And, they are entitled to any reasonable accommodation that allows them to do so. No one can reasonably argue that it is an undue burden to wear a mask to accommodate a child with disabilities,” she wrote. NBC News has more
Lawsuit alleges California’s limit on remote learning discriminates against students with disabilities
Families of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities have filed a civil rights complaint against the state of California, arguing that it is failing to provide accommodations to remote learning for disabled students. A new law passed in July limits access to distance learning, leaving disabled students who are not able to attend in person in the lurch.

“With the new surge in the Delta Variant of COVID-19, students with disabilities and their families now face an impossible choice – to send their children to in-person classes where they may face life-threatening health risks or keep them at home with no or minimal educational services,” says one of lawyers filing the complaint. Read more from Disability Rights California
Parents file suit against Iowa law banning mask mandates  
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and disability advocates are supporting parents who have filed suit seeking to repeal an Iowa law that bans schools from imposing mask mandates. The parents argue the law endangers their children, who are not eligible for vaccines, and excludes them from in-person instruction.
“Prohibiting schools from taking reasonable steps to protect the health of their students forces parents to make an impossible choice: their child's education or their child's health,” says the ACLU’s disability rights program director. Read more from ABC News
Schools struggle to cope with students’ mental health needs as in-person instruction resumes 
While politicians harp on the learning loss students experienced during a year of remote learning, educators in the classroom have another worry on their hands. They’re scrambling to provide social and emotional support to students who’ve experienced trauma, loss and grief during the pandemic.
"There's a lot of focus and attention on learning loss or lost instructional time," says one school psychologist. "Certainly, it's important that we address student's academic needs, but if we don't have a handle on their social-emotional learning and their mental health needs, the academics are never going to come." Read more from ABC News.
The pandemic’s impact on children with neurodegenerative disorders 
The switch to remote instruction presented all educators, but especially clinicians, therapists and classroom special ed teachers, with unique challenges. But the abrupt transition to online learning distance delivery was especially difficult for children with neurodegenerative conditions — and their service providers.
The Cure Sanfilippo Foundation, the National MPS Society, Project Alive and researchers from the University of Minnesota Neurodevelopmental Program in Rare Disease (NPRD) have published a white paper that addresses these challenges and proposes some solutions. Read the full research report.
Recent firm successes
  • Successfully assisted student to obtain needed accommodations from University of Illinois.
  • Obtained district funding for private therapeutic day school placement for 6th grade student with ADHD, Autism, and anxiety disorder.
  • Resolved emergency situation by securing appropriate placement after school district attempted to change placement for 5th grade student with ADHD and SLD the day before the school year began.

  • Helped to secure an IEP for a high school freshman that includes robust, comprehensive goals and services.

  • Obtained extended testing time of time plus one-half over two days in a separate distraction reduced testing environment with additional unscheduled break time on the Fundamentals of Engineering Licensing Exam for a student who had been denied accommodations twice.

  • Obtained a private special education school placement for a minimum of two years including transportation for a high school student who was not correctly evaluated and identified for supports and services and had been receiving inappropriate supports and services.

  • Obtained a private special education school placement for a minimum of two years including transportation for a high school student who was not correctly evaluated and had been receiving inappropriate supports and services.

  • Obtained extended time on tests and assignments and a variety of other accommodations for an incoming college freshman with mild learning disabilities and anxiety that had been previously denied accommodation by her new college. 
Upcoming Conferences and Presentations

Matt Cohen
Remote vs. In-person Instruction: Practical and Legal Issues Arising for Students in Special Education and How to Assure They Receive FAPE
2021 Virtual International Conference on ADHD
Nov. 5, 5 p.m.

Matt Cohen
Beyond the Nest—Virtual IEP Presentation
Blue Bird Day School, Merlin School
Nov. 18, 6 PM.  

Office news and updates
Matt Cohen and Associates is pleased to welcome attorney Will Hrabe to the firm. Prior to joining us, Will worked as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Equip for Equality in the Special Education Clinic. While there, he worked extensively on the CPS Corrective Action and with the Special Education Advocacy Coalition of Chicago (SPEACC). Will received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he double majored in Political Science and Disability Studies, and his law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. Welcome, Will. 

Matt Cohen again has been selected by his peers as a 2022 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007.

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

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 2021 Best of Chicago Awards. The award recognizes the firm's commitment to community service.
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? Click here for further details.

We offer several different brochures related to the following topics, available by calling the office: 

  • 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


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 tami.kuipers@gmail.com

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
to order, call Tami
at 866-787-9270 or

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