Ohio Teacher Claims Fear Of Children, Sues For Discrimination

French and Spanish high school teacher Maria C. Waltherr-Willard is suing the Mariemont school district, claiming it discriminated against her because she has a disability. She suffers from a phobia of young children, which is probably why she started out at a high school.

Waltherr-Willard worked for the school district for 35 years, saying it discriminated against her when it reassigned her in 2010 from its high school to its junior high and then pressured her to resign. The suit is for discrimination based on her age and disability, a rare condition of pedophobia, an extreme anxiety around young children. Waltherr-Willard’s suit claims she has had the phobia since the 1990s, says FOX News.

Waltherr-Willard, who teaches Spanish and French, experiences stress, chest pains, vomiting and higher than healthy blood pressure when she’s around young children, according to medical professionals.

District Judge Herman J. Weber said the district lived up to its written contract, and that Waltherr-Willard would still be employed had she not resigned. Waltherr-Willard, a Greenhills village council member since January last year, had no comment on her lawsuit, referring questions to Bradford Weber,her attorney, who also gave no reply.

Dr. Caleb Adler, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati says:

“It’s a tough phobia. You can’t really get away from (children) when you’re outside … When you’re a teacher, it may not be an issue with older students.”

Ohio teacher sues for discrimination over phobia

Adler adds:

“Phobias are often the butt of jokes … They’re a sitcom staple in ways that are not acceptable for other disorders…. I have a lot of respect for someone who, rather than alter their lives to accommodate a phobia, they initiate treatment.”

Waltherr-Willard began having problems in 2009, when she discussed with parents the likelihood that the district would eliminate teacher-led French courses at the school, instead moving them to the online format.

When parents complained in December, Superintendent Paul Imhoff and high school principal James Renner reprimanded Waltherr-Willard, warning her that if she continued talking to parents about the change, she could risk her job and they would put a memo in her personnel file, according to the Cincinnati News.

By Janaury 2011, Waltherr-Willard had successfully rebuilt Mariemont Junior High’s Spanish program but her blood pressure was often at dangerous levels. She requested, in writing, to return to high school teaching. Imhoff responded in writing that there was no open position but he’d keep her request on file. Waltherr-Willard retired in March 2011, and in July she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. The commission dismissed her complaint a year later, giving her the right to sue the district, which she did in June.

Do you think Waltherr-Willard was given the runaround to push her out and cover up the district’s inaction?