Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education

The Story behind Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District
Author: Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber
An important case at the crossroads of disability rights and church-state separation
Cloth – $110
Paper – $27.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 07/06/2020
Cloth: 07/06/2020
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About the Book

In 1988, Sandi and Larry Zobrest sued a suburban Tucson, Arizona, school district that had denied their hearing-impaired son a taxpayer-funded interpreter in his Roman Catholic high school. The Catalina Foothills School District argued that providing a public resource for a private, religious school created an unlawful crossover between church and state. The Zobrests, however, claimed that the district had infringed on both their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber use the Zobrests’ story to examine the complex history and jurisprudence of disability accommodation and educational mainstreaming. They look at the family's effort to acquire educational resources for their son starting in early childhood and the choices the Zobrests made to prepare him for life in the hearing world rather than the deaf community. Dierenfield and Gerber also analyze the thorny church-state issues and legal controversies that informed the case, its journey to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the impact of the high court's ruling on the course of disability accommodation and religious liberty.

About the Author

Bruce J. Dierenfield is a professor of history and director of the All-College Honors Program at Canisius College. His five previous books include the prizewinning The Battle over School Prayer: How Engel v. Vitale Changed America. David A. Gerber is a University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus and director emeritus of the University at Buffalo Center for Disability Studies. He is the author of Authors of Their Lives: The Personal Correspondence of British Immigrants to North America in the Nineteenth Century and editor of Disabled Veterans in History.


"The definitive history of the landmark US Supreme Court case Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District 1993 . . . This is a great volume for legal scholars, families of special needs children, and school administrators. . . . Highly recommended." --Choice

"An excellent job of telling the story of the Zobrests . . . Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education has so much to recommend it, both in its fascinating topic and its nuanced engagement with it." --H-Net Reviews

"As a disability history, the book excels. . . . Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education achieves its goal of creating a comprehensive account of Zobrest that considers disability rights, history, and constitutional law." --Journal of Church and State


•  Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2021