‘Could not stand or walk for prolonged periods’
A 400-pound student is suing Michigan’s Wayne State University for $1 million for not allowing him to do his physical education student teaching virtually.
According to The Detroit News, 44-year-old David Lopez, who suffers from diabetes, hypertension and asthma, had completed all the requirements for the phys ed kinesiology program except the student teaching.
Given his maladies, Lopez reportedly “could not stand or walk for prolonged periods.” The school district at which he was assigned to student teach allegedly agreed to accommodate his request to teach online; however, Lopez says Wayne State did not.
With the help of a gym teacher at his assigned school and “some unofficial accommodations,” Lopez finished the first part of his student teaching assignment. But he claims Wayne State told him “not to report” for the second part.
“They don’t think I fit the description of what a PE teacher was because I’m very overweight,” Lopez said. “They didn’t want me to graduate with my certification because I didn’t fit what they perceived to be a gym teacher because of my size and because of my weight. There’s no doubt that was the reason why. There was no other reason. I passed everything.” …
“It got to the point where I had no other choice left,” Lopez said. “I left with no degree, no certification, no nothing.”
One of his professors had previously tried to get him to leave the university with a degree but no teaching certificate, Lopez said. He said the professor told him he didn’t think he was qualified to be a gym teacher and he wouldn’t be good at it.
While he isn’t able to physically participate in some of the sports and activities, Lopez said his weight does not impact his ability to be a good teacher.
Lopez has always loved sports, especially team sports. He coached as a summer job after high school and enjoyed it. But going through this with Wayne State took the joy out of teaching, he said.
Wayne State called Lopez’s suit “frivolous” and said “there is no legal claim for weight discrimination against an educational institution.” It added the university “does not control the student teaching requirements of [school] districts.”
Weight is a protected characteristic in Michigan (the only state, in fact), but the law specifically pertains to employers.