Bruce J. Dierenfield and David A. Gerber

Sep 14, 2022

Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education

The Story Behind Zobrest V. Catalina Foothills School District

University of Illinois Press 2020

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).

In Disability Rights and Religious Liberty in Education: The Story Behind Zobrest V. Catalina Foothills School District (U Illinois Press, 2020), 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.

D​​​​avid A. Gerber taught American History at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) from 1971 to his retirement in 2012. He was founding Director of the Center for Disability Studies at UB, and served in that capacity from 2009 through 2012. His interests in History have been grown over the course of years to encompass manifestations of personal and social identity in a wide variety of groups and individuals including during the course of his career: African Americans; American Jews; American Catholics; European immigrants, and people with disabilities.

Bruce Dierenfield has long been interested in the history of American race relations, and has written a popular textbook on the civil rights movement and another on African-American leadership since enslavement. As Peter Canisius Distinguished Teaching Professor, Dierenfield organized the “African-American Experience,” led student trips to West Africa and the Deep South, and invited distinguished historians and many influential activists of the 1960s to speak on campus

Shu Wan is currently matriculated as a doctoral student in history at the University at Buffalo. As a digital and disability historian, he serves in the editorial team of Digital Humanities Quarterly and Nursing Clio.

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Shu Wan

Shu Wan is currently matriculated as a doctoral student in history at the University at Buffalo. As a digital and disability historian, he serves in the editorial team of Digital Humanities Quarterly and Nursing Clio.

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