David Lopez, a 44-year-old student at Wayne State University, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the institution, alleging that he was barred from continuing his student-teaching remotely due to his weight. Lopez, who weighs over 400 pounds and suffers from diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, was enrolled in Wayne State University’s physical education kinesiology program.

His aspiration was to become a certified gym teacher. Despite completing all other requirements of the program, Lopez claims he was discriminated against because of his size and inability to fulfill the student-teaching requirement in person​​.

Who is David Lopez?

David Lopez embarked on his journey to become a gym teacher later in life, enrolling at Wayne State University with the goal of teaching high school physical education. He faced significant challenges due to his weight and associated health issues. Lopez received a medical waiver from his doctor to conduct his student-teaching virtually. However, Wayne State University rejected this request, stating that student teachers needed to be physically present to receive credit for student teaching.

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Lopez’s lawsuit is rooted in his belief that the university’s refusal to accommodate his request for virtual teaching stemmed from weight discrimination. He asserts that his inability to participate in sports and gym activities did not impede his ability to teach effectively, albeit remotely. The lawsuit marks a critical point in Lopez’s career pursuit, as he was left without a degree or certification, leading him to view legal action as his last resort to address what he perceives as unjust treatment​​.

Wayne State University, on the other hand, has labeled the lawsuit as frivolous, arguing that there is no legal ground for weight discrimination claims against an educational institution. This stance highlights the legal complexities surrounding weight as a protected class in Michigan, where it is recognized similarly to sex and race. However, this protection typically applies to employment discrimination, not necessarily within educational settings​​.

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Lopez’s case is significant in the ongoing conversation about discrimination, accommodation, and the rights of individuals with disabilities or health conditions in educational and professional environments.