Dave Peterson


The Fourth Circuit’s recent decision in Class v. Towson University threatens the rights guaranteed to disabled persons under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”). The Acts demand that disabled persons not be excluded from activities based on unsubstantiated paternalistic concerns, and, where exclusion occurs, the Acts entrust courts to evaluate whether exclusion was warranted in light of the best available objective evidence. This Comment argues that by deferring to the speculative fears and subjective judgment of Towson University—the very entity accused of violating the ADA and Rehab Act in Class v. Towson—the Fourth Circuit abandoned its duties and rendered an improper decision.

This Comment begins with a critique of the Fourth Circuit’s reasoning in Class v. Towson and demonstrates that the factual record was devoid of evidence supporting the court’s decision to exclude Gavin Class—a disabled athlete—from Towson’s football team. This Comment continues by arguing that the Fourth Circuit employed an incorrect standard of analysis when determining that Class’s disqualification did not violate the ADA or Rehab Act. The conclusion of this Comment implores the legal community to reject the Fourth Circuit’s holding and reaffirm disabled persons’ right to live free from paternalistic authorities.