Archives Speaker Series discusses equal treatment of the handicapped and separation of church and state

By Sarah Sterzinger

Griffin Reporter

On Wednesday, October 26, Canisius College welcomed visiting professor Dr. Gerber from the University at Buffalo to the Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library. Dr. Gerber is working with Canisius’ own Dr. Bruce Dierenfield on an investigation into a social justice case from 1993.

The professors followed the story of a deaf man named Jim Zobrest who wished to attend a Catholic high school. Due to his disability, Zobrest needed a Sign Language interpreter. While Jim attended public school, his family didn’t have to worry about the cost of the interpreter; once Jim’s parents had decided to enroll him in a Catholic high school, they ran into funding issues– the district denied it, claiming separation of church and state. Zobrest’s mother had offered to pay for the interpreter during theology classes and during mass, however, the district continued to deny them. To pay for the interpreter necessary to help their son communicate, the Zobrest family spent an annual total ranging between $8,000 and $12,00.

Eventually the family took the district to court, where the case continued to rise on appeals until it made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1993, the Zobrest family won the case of Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District and received funding for their disabled son.

Drs. Gerber and Dierenfield are continuing their research into this case to write a manuscript on the event, which they plan to publish in the near future.

Their presentation was part of the library’s Archive Speakers series. This series was started in 2007 and continues into today. The movement was to ensure the sustainability of archives and celebrates American Archives Month.

“The Archives Speaker Series,” according to archivist, Special Collections Librarian, and head of the series Kathleen Delaney, “showcases scholars who have a special understanding of archival research based on their own experiences and who have completed a book or other expression of scholarship reliant on archival research.”

If any student missed this installment of the series, the library will be holding their spring series next semester. The speakers are still to be announced at a later date. Follow the link on the Library webpage to Archives and Special Collections to learn more.


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