Kathryn Vander Broek's practice focuses in the areas of school and employment law, where her experiences and background in law and social work serve to uniquely benefit her clients.

Ms. Vander Broek assists schools in all general matters, with an emphasis in the area of special education and discrimination law. She addresses schools with student and staff discipline matters, allegations of discrimination, comprehensive policy reviews, confidentiality of public records, negotiation of intergovernmental agreements, and other school operations.

In the area of special education, Ms. Vander Broek's representation covers all matters related to the provision of educational services to students covered by disability laws. These include questions related to eligibility, disciplinary procedures and the availability of interim alternative placements, determination of whether services offered or provided meet the district's obligations to provide a free appropriate public education and similar concerns. Additionally, she represents clients in administrative due process proceedings and on petitions for attorney's fees resulting from special education due process challenges.

Ms. Vander Broek regularly assists school districts in auditing special education programs to support school boards in monitoring and setting program initiatives consistent with their legal obligations to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act.

In addition to her representation of school districts, Ms. Vander Broek maintains a general practice in the area of employment law. She maintains her focus on discrimination and disability law in this practice area.

Professional Background

Ms. Vander Broek formerly practiced as a licensed clinical social worker before pursuing her law degree. Her dual background and training in law and social work provides her with a well-rounded and unique approach to problem solving with clients and assisting them with legal issues involving special education and other issues.

Before joining Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in July 1999, Ms. Vander Broek was a Staff Attorney and Programs Administrator for the Circuit Court of Cook County, Juvenile Justice and Child Protection Department Resource Section. While there, she was very involved in program and policy development across offices working in the Juvenile Court system. Her practice in social work focused primarily on providing therapy to children and families in an urban environment.

Professional Affiliations

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Illinois Council of School Attorneys
    • Special Education Liaison Committee (1999–Present)
    • Special Student Populations Committee (2010)
    • Care of Students With Diabetes Act Committee (2011)
  • National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL)
  • Illinois Attorney General’s Committee on Special Education
    • School and Mental Health Committee, Chair (2012–Present)
    • Response to Intervention Committee, Member (2010–2011)
  • Leading Lawyers Network

Honors & Awards

  • Selected by her peers as a Leading Lawyer in School Law
  • Leading Lawyers Network Magazine—Women’s Edition featured as one of the top women lawyers in Illinois in the article, "Using Social Work Training to Help School Districts", November 2012


  • "School Student Records: Practice Considerations," The 5th Annual Education Law: A Year in Review seminar, Chicago, Illinois, June 25, 2018

  • "Section 504 and the ADA," Rockford Pubic Schools District 205, Rockford, Illinois, June, 2018 

  • "So, You Want to Be a Teacher, Legal Obligations You Should Know," Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Illinois, April 2018; April 2017

  • "School Safety: Crisis Management and Outside Investigations," The 2017 Joint Annual Conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Administrators, and Illinois Association of School Business Officials, Chicago, Illinois, November 2017
  • "Student Development Through Discipline – Board Responsibilities Under SB 100," Illinois Association of School Boards, Rockford, Illinois, October 2017
  • "Select Issues Regarding Student Nondiscrimination," St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing, Peoria, Illinois, October 2017
  • "Special Education Discipline in the Era of SB 100," Southern Will County Special Education Cooperative, Joliet, Illinois, September 2017

  • "Special Education and Student Matters Update", Illinois Counsel for School Attorneys, Chicago, Illinois, November 2016
  • "Sex and Gender in the Law: Title IX and Transgender Students," Chicago Bar Association, LGBT Committee, Chicago, Illinois, October 2016
  • "Puzzling Personnel Predicaments," Hinshaw's Annual Labor & Employment Seminar, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, October 2016
  • "Manifestation Determination Reviews, Making the Case and Letting People Know," Rockford Public Schools, Rockford, Illinois, September 2016
  • "Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)," and Placement Decisions and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)," Special Education Laws Made Simple, NBI, Chicago, Illinois, May 12, 2016
  • "Here, There and Everywhere — What to Do With School Student Records and Visitors to the Schools," Professional Development Alliance, Joliet, Illinois, September 2015
  • "A Workshop for Head's Assistants: Too Much to Do, Too Little Time, Too Many Bosses, Too Few Me," Independent Schools Association of the Central States, Chicago, Illinois, August 2015
  • "Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)," and Placement Decisions and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)," Special Education Laws Made Simple, NBI, Naperville, Illinois, February 3, 2015
  • "Manifestation Determination Reviews, Making the Case and Letting People Know," Rockford Public Schools, Rockford, Illinois, December 7, 2014

  • "Bullying and Pride Don't Mix," ADL Partners with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, Chicago, Illinois, November 2014
  • "Trends in Student Rights and Discipline," IASB/IASA/IASBO Joint Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, November 2013


Ms. Vander Broek has been published many times. Her articles include "Schools and Social Media: First Amendment Issues Arising from Student Use of Social Media," of which she was a co-author, published in Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal, Aspen Publishers, April 2009.

J.D., Loyola University School of Law, 1994

M.A., University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, 1986

B.A., Michigan State University Honors College, 1985