Student kept off softball field because of eating disorder, suit says

By Jim Boyle | Jul 15, 2014

A Haverford College student says that the school's softball team violated her civil rights by

refusing to let her play because of a documented eating disorder, according to a federal suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Currently a 2013 graduate enrolled in medical school, Jolie Krooks, 23, says school officials violated the Americans with Disabilities Act through acts of discrimination between 2009 and 2013 that include wrongfully excluding her from playing softball and tennis, treating her differently from other players, requiring unreasonable and unnecessary medical documentation to participate in school athletic programs and subjecting the plaintiff to a hostile environment. Krooks seeks damages in excess of $150,000 from the school.

According to the complaint, before Krooks began her freshman year in 2009, she informed Haverford's health services department and the softball coach of her history with an eating disorder. The complaint says that the coach, Jennifer Ward, immediately treated her differently from the other players, such as refusing to play her, even though all other teammates received playing time.

The suit alleges that Ward also would not allow Krooks to take extra batting practice, something granted to the rest of the team. Krooks says that the experience caused her eating disorder to relapse, and she left school in the spring of 2010 and completed her finals at home.

When she returned to school in the fall, Krooks rejoined the team, which did not have tryouts for prospective members. The plaintiff was told by school officials that she required a medical clearance from a cardiologist before she could play softball, a requirement that no other player was forced to meet, according to the suit.

Despite meeting the requirement and gaining the clearances, Krooks was informed by a letter from the Haverford Dean Martha Denney that she would need to meet more standards in order to play for the softball team. According to the claim, those benchmarks included:

  • Weekly scheduled consultations with the director of health services, including weighing in

  • Maintaining a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 19.5

  • Comprehensive evaluation by Haverford's staff psychiatrist with specific attention on any medications Krooks may be taking

  • No more than one hour of exercise per day

  • Weekly meetings with her faculty adviser to discuss athletic/academic balance

Krooks attempted to return to the team in March 2011, but the stringent requirements that were only applied to her prevented the plaintiff from participating with the program, court documents say. On one or more occasions, the suit says, the director of health services demanded that Krooks remove her clothing for weigh ins, despite the plaintiff's objections.

"Haverford's conduct was designed to discourage, dissuade and punish Ms. Krooks for pursuing and advocating for her rights," the complaint says. "As a proximate result of Defendant's persistent and pervasive conduct, Ms. Krooks felt humiliation, embarrassment, shame and self-conscious."

In November 2011, Krooks contacted the school and told officials that she had met all of the requirements.  An assessment team cleared her to play for the softball team in January 2012, but Ward refused to give Krooks an opportunity to try out, the suit says. Finally, in February 2011, Krooks was cut from the team.

The claim says that Krooks expressed interest in joining the Haverford tennis team, instead, and even received the okay from the coach. However, the approval was abruptly rescinded, denying Krooks the ability to participate in a school program because of her disability, according to the complaint.

Krooks says in the suit that she refrained from filing any civil actions while enrolled because she feared retaliation from officials.  She is represented by Charles Weiner of Bensalem.

The federal case ID number is 2:14-cv-04205-CDJ.

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