June 2024 newsletter

This E-newsletter is devoted to sharing information about special education, disability rights, mental health and human services law, political policy and research that is of importance to people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals that work with them. It also includes updates and news about our firm and its activities. We hope you find it helpful and welcome your comments and suggestions. —  Matt Cohen

As of April 1, Matt Cohen and Associates has a new mailing address:

Matt Cohen & Associates 

77 W. Wacker Drive

Suite 4500

Chicago, IL 60601 

We're hiring: Full or part-time litigation attorney

Matt Cohen and Associates is recruiting for a full-time or part-time itigation attorney to work on special education, 504, and ADA litigation, including mediation, due process hearings, administrative complaints, and federal and state court litigation. Candidates must have prior trial experience, including experience in evidentiary hearings and contested matters, as well as pre-trial practice including depositions and pre-trial motion practice.


Candidates should have at least three years of litigation experience. Prior history as an educator or clinician working with children and/or adults with disabilities is a significant consideration. Candidates who are bi-lingual in Spanish are especially encouraged to apply. Candidates must also have experience conducting community education/outreach activities and speaking to the public. Involvement in service to not-for-profit organizations is useful. Illinois attorneys will be strongly preferred but candidates outside the state must be able to obtain Illinois licensure and be Trial Bar eligible in order to be considered.


For more information or to apply, please send your resume and cover letter to Matt Cohen and Associates. 

School districts facing shortage of special education teachers

The unique challenges faced by special education teachers are leaving schools woefully understaffed in this critical area. At the start of this school year, federal data show that 21 percent of schools reported special ed staff shortages and 8 percent had teachers who were not fully certified.


Burnout and lack of support are key reasons teachers give for leaving the job. “I just felt like I couldn’t meet all of my students’ needs with the resources and support that I had, no matter how hard I worked,” says one former special ed teacher. Read more from Education Week. 


The staffing shortage is so severe in Del Norte County, California, that parents are suing the school district as well as the state education department for failing to provide services to which their children are legally entitled. Read more from NPR.

Disability discrimination complaints at highest level in six years 

New federal data show that disability discrimination complaints at the nation’s schools are at their highest level in six years. In 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights received 6,749 complaints in that category, compared to 6,390 the year before. The biggest issue provoking complaints regarded students’ rights to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education.


“I think the increased number of complaints ties directly to the lack of oversight in the states for the implementation of the law,” says one advocate. “The fact that states are not holding districts accountable is not new.” Read more from Disability Scoop. 

Brown vs. Board of education outlawed segregation 70 years ago, so why does it still persist?

May 17, 2024, marked the 70th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision which declared segregation of public schools and other institutions unconstitutional. But despite the historic ruling, many American schools remain stubbornly segregated.


Axios Chicago found that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) continues to be one of the most segregated school districts in the nation. Read more from Axios.


A University of Memphis Law School professor discusses how the “colorblind” theories behind court rulings today are at odds with the historical injustices the Brown decision sought to address. Read more from Chalkbeat.


Seventy years after the Brown decision, laws do not mandate segregation but it exists in a different form. White schools are often better equipped, with more resources and highly trained educators, than schools serving Black and Brown students in the same district. Read more from CNN.

Former juvenile inmates sue Illinois correctional facilities for systemic sexual abuse

More than 90 former inmates of Illinois juvenile correctional centers have filed a lawsuit alleging rampant sexual abuse at the facilities. The suit is one of several across the country alleging pervasive abuse at institutions charged with caring for minors.


“The systems are broken,” says one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, who sees the lawsuit as a way to “demand justice for every soul scarred by the system’s negligence.” Read more from the New York Times

Recent firm successes

  • Obtained a therapeutic day school placement for a twice exceptional student with behavior challenges. 

  • Secured intensive, targeted ESY instruction for a student with learning disabilities. 

  • Facilitated collaboration, use of research-based practices, and individualized expectations to create a strong IEP that encourages student independence while continuing to remediate academic deficits. 

  • Obtained an initial IEP for an elementary-age student with executive functioning and language deficits. 

  • Secured trained aide support for transitions, improved proactive social-emotional interventions, and strengthened supports for honors-level classes for a high school student with autism. 

  • Avoided mediation and worked out a solution between the public school district and a therapeutic day school to extend the transition time for a student to maintain a hybrid schedule and more slowly transition back to the public school. 

  • Obtained a therapeutic day school placement for a bright high school girl with autism experiencing behavior challenges. 

  • Facilitated maintaining and strengthening a hybrid placement with a therapeutic day school and public high school programming for a student with exceptional learning disabilities. 

  • Effectively advocated for a highly individualized and proactive plan to support the transition to middle school for a student with academic, social, functional, and language skills that need to be both remediated and accelerated. 

  • Coached a family to effectively advocate for a change of placement to an appropriate therapeutic day school for a middle school student experiencing anxiety, depression, and bullying. 

  • Facilitated a robust and comprehensive plan to support a student return to public school from a therapeutic day school placement.

  • Finalized settlement agreement requiring school district to fund a significant majority of student’s tuition in a non-ISBE approved private residential school over the next three years.


  • Secured parent’s right to view video of bullying incident on bus; prevailed in manifestation hearing following student’s suspension.


  • Negotiated agreement for school district to change student’s placement to therapeutic day school in placement the parents had selected.


  • Negotiated prospective placement of student in therapeutic day school for two years, along with partial reimbursement of costs of parents’ unilateral placement. 

Office news and updates

Matt Cohen has been ranked as one of America’s Most Honored Lawyers, in the top 5 percent, by the American Registry for 2023.

Matt Cohen has been selected a 2024 Illinois Super Lawyer, a distinction he has held since 2007 that is awarded to only 5 percent of Illinois attorneys.


Matt also has once again been selected an Illinois Leading Lawyer for 2023, a distinction earned by fewer than 5 percent of all lawyers licensed to practice law in Illinois.


Matt also has been named an Avvo top lawyer for 2023.

The new (16th) edition of K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences is out. Matt Cohen once again is a contributing author with his article, “The Rights of College Students with Disabilities: Myth vs. Reality.” 


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

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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.