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Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District

United States Supreme Court
509 U.S. 1 (1993)


James Zobrest (plaintiff) was a student in Tucson, Arizona who had been deaf since birth. Zobrest attended a school for the deaf until the sixth grade. From the sixth grade to the eighth grade, Zobrest attended a public school in the Catalina Foothills School District (the district) (defendant). Pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the district provided Zobrest with a sign-language interpreter during his enrollment. Zobrest then enrolled in a private, Catholic high school, beginning with the ninth grade, for religious reasons. Zobrest and his parents requested that the district continue to provide him with a sign-language interpreter at the private school. The county attorney determined that providing an interpreter would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Arizona attorney general agreed with the county attorney. The district then declined to provide the interpreter. Zobrest sued the district, claiming that the district’s decision violated his rights under the IDEA and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The district court agreed with the district that providing Zobrest with a sign-language interpreter would violate the Establishment Clause. Zobrest appealed, and court of appeals affirmed the decision. Zobrest then sought review from the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

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