Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School Dist., 509 U.S. 1, 13 (1993)

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Cite as: 509 U. S. 1 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

support for nonpublic, sectarian institutions.' " Witters, supra, at 488 (quoting Nyquist, supra, at 783).

Second, the task of a sign-language interpreter seems to us quite different from that of a teacher or guidance counselor. Notwithstanding the Court of Appeals' intimations to the contrary, see 963 F. 2d, at 1195, the Establishment Clause lays down no absolute bar to the placing of a public employee in a sectarian school.10 Such a flat rule, smacking of antiquated notions of "taint," would indeed exalt form over substance.11 Nothing in this record suggests that a sign-language interpreter would do more than accurately interpret whatever material is presented to the class as a whole. In fact, ethical guidelines require interpreters to "transmit everything that is said in exactly the same way it was intended." App. 73. James' parents have chosen of their own free will to place him in a pervasively sectarian environment. The sign-language interpreter they have requested will neither add to nor subtract from that environment, and hence the provision of such assistance is not barred by the Establishment Clause.

The IDEA creates a neutral government program dispensing aid not to schools but to individual handicapped children. If a handicapped child chooses to enroll in a sectarian school,

10 For instance, in Wolman v. Walter, 433 U. S. 229, 242 (1977), we made clear that "the provision of health services to all schoolchildren—public and nonpublic—does not have the primary effect of aiding religion," even when those services are provided within sectarian schools. We accordingly rejected a First Amendment challenge to the State's providing diagnostic speech and hearing services on sectarian school premises. Id., at 244; see also Meek v. Pittenger, 421 U. S. 349, 371, n. 21 (1975).

11 Indeed, respondent readily admits, as it must, that there would be no problem under the Establishment Clause if the IDEA funds instead went directly to James' parents, who, in turn, hired the interpreter themselves. Brief for Respondent 11 ("If such were the case, then the sign language interpreter would be the student's employee, not the School District's, and governmental involvement in the enterprise would end with the disbursement of funds").


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