·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Overweight Wayne State Student Sues University for Denying Dream of Being Gym Teacher

— December 26, 2023

After a doctor found that his obesity, diabetes, asthma, and hypertension made simply standing through gym class a potent health risk, the 400-pound student filed a lawsuit against Wayne State, saying that it unfairly refused to accommodate his health conditions to complete a student-teaching requirement.

A former Wayne State University student is filing a lawsuit against the Detroit college, claiming that it discriminated against him by refusing to let him teach courses online.

According to The Detroit News, the David Lopez, a former student in physical education kinesiology, was hoping to become a gym teacher. He had finished every requirement for his degree, absent a student-teaching stipulation.

Lopez, notes the Detroit News¸ is 44 years old and weighs over 400 pounds. He also has diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.

“They don’t think I fit the description of what a P.E. teacher was, because I’m very overweight,” Lopez told the Detroit News. “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,” he said. “There was no other reason. I passed everything.”

In a legal response to the lawsuit, Wayne State indicated that alleged “weight discrimination” is not sufficient basis for a complaint against an educational institution. It also said that it has no control over the student-teaching requirements mandated by most Michigan districts.

Wayne State has since called the lawsuit “frivolous” and asked for it to be dismissed outright.

Before filing his complaint, though, Lopez was instructed to complete his student-teaching requirement with Dearborn Public Schools. Lopez’s physician provided him an accommodation for diabetes, obesity, and other medical conditions, and opined that Lopez was not fit to stand or walk for prolonged periods of time.

The Acme Thunderer metal whistle; image by Blue Budgie, via Pixabay.
The Acme Thunderer metal whistle; image by Blue Budgie, via Pixabay.

Dearborn said that it would let Lopez teach virtually—a concession that Wayne State purportedly rejected.

“All I’d asked for was accommodations, virtual or through physical accommodations inside a classroom,” Lopez said. “The school I was at was willing to give me a virtual setting, but Wayne State was not.”

Lopez, without approval from the university, completed the first half of his student-teaching at a Dearborn elementary school.

However, Wayne State put an end to his ambitions, telling him not to report for the second half of the course.

“It got to the point where I had no other choice left,” Lopez said. “I left with no degree, no certification, no nothing.”

Lopez noted that one of his professors had previously encouraged him to graduate with a degree, but to abandon his pursuit of a teaching certificate. The professor purportedly said that Lopez was not qualified to be a gym teacher and would not likely succeed in the role were he ever to be hired.

This notwithstanding, Lopez says that, even if he is not fit enough to participate in sports or other activities, he can still act as a competent instructor and passionate teacher.

In his complaint, Lopez has asked for a court to order his readmission to Wayne State’s teaching program. Until then, he has switched majors, with his current degree program requiring that he take additional credits to graduate.

“Suing the school as my last option,” Lopez said. “I didn’t want to do it, but I’m doing it because I have nothing, and I have no way to earn a living now because they took away my opportunity to get a degree.”

“All I asked for was a reasonable accommodation,” he said.


400-Pound Student Sues After Dream of Being Gym Teacher Is Blocked

Lawsuit: Wayne State discriminated against student who wanted to be gym teacher because of weight

Join the conversation!