Ohio ex-teacher sues, says she fears young kids

A former high school teacher is accusing school district administrators of discriminating against her because of a rare phobia she says she has: a fear of young children.
Associated Press
Jan 15, 2013

Maria Waltherr-Willard, 61, had been teaching Spanish and French at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati since 1976.

Waltherr-Willard, who does not have children of her own, said that when she was transferred to the district's middle school in 2009, the seventh- and eighth-graders triggered her phobia, causing her blood pressure to soar and forcing her to retire in the middle of the 2010-2011 school year.

In her lawsuit against the district, filed in federal court in Cincinnati, Waltherr-Willard said that her fear of young children falls under the federal American with Disabilities Act and that the district violated it by transferring her in the first place and then refusing to allow her to return to the high school.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Gary Winters, the school district's attorney, said Tuesday that Waltherr-Willard was transferred because the French program at the high school was being turned into an online one and that the middle school needed a Spanish teacher.

"She wants money," Winters said of Walter-Willard's motivation to sue. "Let's keep in mind that our goal here is to provide the best teachers for students and the best academic experience for students, which certainly wasn't accomplished by her walking out on them in the middle of the year."

Waltherr-Willard and her attorney, Brad Weber, did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

Winters also denied Walter-Willard's claim that the district transferred her out of retaliation for her unauthorized comments to parents about the French program ending — "the beginning of a deliberate, systematic and calculated effort to squeeze her out of a job altogether," Weber wrote in a July 2011 letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit said that Waltherr-Willard has been treated for her phobia since 1991 and also suffers from general anxiety disorder, high blood pressure and a gastrointestinal illness. She was managing her conditions well until the transfer, according to the lawsuit.

Working with the younger students adversely affected health, the lawsuit said.

She was "unable to control her blood pressure, which was so high at times that it posed a stroke risk," according to the lawsuit, which includes a statement from her doctor about her high blood pressure. "The mental anguish suffered by (Waltherr-Willard) is serious and of a nature that no reasonable person could be expected to endure the same."

The lawsuit was filed in June and is set to go to trial in February 2014. A judge last week dismissed three of the ex-teacher's claims, but left discrimination claims standing.

The lawsuit says that Waltherr-Willard has lost out on at least $100,000 of potential income as a result of her retirement.

Winters said that doesn't make sense, considering that Waltherr-Willard's take from retirement is 89 percent of what her annual salary was, which was around $80,000.

Patrick McGrath, a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders near Chicago, said that he has treated patients who have fears involving children and that anyone can be afraid of anything.

"A lot of people will look at something someone's afraid of and say, 'There is no rational reason to be afraid of that,'" he said. "But anxiety disorders are emotion-based. ... We've had mothers who wouldn't touch their children after they're born."

He said most phobias begin with people asking themselves, "What if?" and then imagining the worst-case scenario.

"You can make an association to something and be afraid of it," McGrath said. "If you get a phone call that your mom was just in a horrible accident as you're locking the door, you can make an association that bad news comes if you don't lock the door right. It's a basic case of conditioning."

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Comments

From The Deep Web

She has a fear of children.....

She attends university to obtain a degree in teaching...wait for it....CHILDREN!

mikel

D U M B A S S

God Of Thunder

LOL

Swamp Fox

Another example of what the unions has done to education....

grandmasgirl

One of the ways to reduce your blood pressure is to lose weight and exercise.

wiredmama222

true, true, true. An excellent point. I wonder if that is one of the things the court through out of her lawsuit.

meowmix

Swampy--what the hell does the union have to do with this story? I suppose her fear is real enough. Besides that, seventh and eighth grade kids are the worst! Make my blood pressure go sky high too!

Licorice Schtick

Hey, at least no one has blamed Obama, and no one has been called a Nazi. Yet.

coasterfan

Are you a clarinet player? Just noticed the nickname :)

meowmix

Good one!! :}

goofus

I was pusuing an undergaduate degree in teaching when I realized I hated kids, so I switched. No harm, no foul, have done much better for myself than a teaching degree could have accomplished.

richrs

Sounds like a crock of crap to me.

dorothy gale

If one has this so-called "rare phobia," perhaps one should choose a different profession. How freaking stupid! Has this woman no sense of shame or self-respect?! I'm just flabbergasted at the stupidity of this claim.

RedApple

I have a phobia of bread, but I'll be applying at a bakery next week...lol!!!

God Of Thunder

And this is hilarious!!!

wiredmama222

this is the best comment on here. roflmao.

God Of Thunder

Her head looks like it's about to pop like a pimple....You have to be kidding me, and a judge is allowing this lawsuit to go thru..This has nothing to do with a disability... This is one of those reasons 'why you can't perform other job duties assigned.' I don't want to hear any BS from people defending this moron. A teaching degree means you work with kids, elementary, middle, or high school..Wherever the district feels you are best needed.. Cry me a river..

kURTje

Stupid oldster.

jon491

80,000 yr ,she must be stupid . RIGHT............

coasterfan

She should find another profession, since being around kids is something that comes with being a teacher.

kURTje

As the article states: "she wants money." Sadly jon that's what's drives the majority of Americans. Especially older ones.

jon491

I know ,If she lives for 28 more yrs that could be about 2 million dollars.
And she wants more. No wonder schools can't handle the costs.
Even if is in investments that money comes from somewhere.

meowmix

I'm not 100% defending this woman but I know of quite a few school districts who have closed down their elementary/junior high schools and now have one school with grades K-12 on one site. This woman taught foreign language to high school kids and that was her profession. That would be like being a chef for a gormet restaurant only to be told due to downsizing you'll be working at McDonalds.

wiredmama222

well, lets just hope in her case, that she doesn't end up like the people in "Demolition Man'. She would then be working at "Taco Bell" and loving it!
No offense intended!