Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 509 U.S. 1, 4 (1993)

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Opinion of the Court

James Zobrest attended grades one through five in a school for the deaf, and grades six through eight in a public school operated by respondent. While he attended public school, respondent furnished him with a sign-language interpreter. For religious reasons, James' parents (also petitioners here) enrolled him for the ninth grade in Salpointe Catholic High School, a sectarian institution.1 When petitioners requested that respondent supply James with an interpreter at Salpointe, respondent referred the matter to the county attorney, who concluded that providing an interpreter on the school's premises would violate the United States Constitution. App. 10-18. Pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 15- 253(B) (1991), the question next was referred to the Arizona attorney general, who concurred in the county attorney's opinion. App. to Pet. for Cert. A-137. Respondent accordingly declined to provide the requested interpreter.

Petitioners then instituted this action in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona under 20 U. S. C. 1415(e)(4)(A), which grants the district courts jurisdiction over disputes regarding the services due disabled children under the IDEA.2 Petitioners asserted that the IDEA and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment require respondent to provide James with an interpreter at Salpointe, and that the Establishment Clause does not bar such relief. The complaint sought a preliminary injunction and "such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper." App. 25.3 The District Court denied petitioners'

1 The parties have stipulated: "The two functions of secular education and advancement of religious values or beliefs are inextricably intertwined throughout the operations of Salpointe." App. 92.

2 The parties agreed that exhaustion of administrative remedies would be futile here. Id., at 94-95.

3 During the pendency of this litigation, James completed his high school studies and graduated from Salpointe on May 16, 1992. This case nonetheless presents a continuing controversy, since petitioners seek reimbursement for the cost they incurred in hiring their own interpreter, more than $7,000 per year. Id., at 65.

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