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Ohio teacher claims discrimination due to her fear of children

The Lookout

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Students at Bourne Secondary School in Ruislip, Middlesex, in England in 1947. (Keystone Hulton Archive/Getty  …

A teacher from Mariemont, Ohio, is suing her school district, claiming discrimination. What makes the case unique is that the teacher, Maria Waltherr-Willard, suffers from pedophobia, a crippling fear of young children. She claims her disability led to the discrimination.

We first saw the news over at the Cincinnati.com. The paper reports that Waltherr-Willard began her career as a high school teacher, a position she held for decades. She was reassigned to teach in a junior high in 2010, despite, she claims, being assured earlier in her career that she would not have to teach younger children.

According to the Enquirer, pedophobia can lead to shortness of breath, vomiting and feelings of terror when around young children. Waltherr-Willard claims that she was discriminated against based on her age (she's 61) and her disability.

"It's a tough phobia. You can't really get away from [children] when you're outside," Dr. Caleb Adler, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, told Cincinnati.com. Adler did not treat Waltherr-Willard.

[Related: Teacher claims school district forced her to purge classroom of Bible verses, Reagan quote]

The backstory, as described by the Enquirer, goes as follows: Waltherr-Willard taught foreign languages in high school for many years. Several years ago, word got to her that her district was considering putting those classes online, a move that would have had an effect on her position.

Waltherr-Willard apparently spoke to parents about the district's decision to eliminate face-to-face French courses. Parents spoke out, and the district was not amused that one of its teachers was stirring the pot. Waltherr-Willard claims she was sent to teach at junior high as a kind of punishment for speaking out. She eventually resigned her position.

"Good Morning America" reports that the lawsuit says "both parties agreed the phobia and anxiety disorder fell under the Americans With Disabilities Act and exempted her from future transfers within the school district."

Parts of the lawsuit have already been dismissed by a federal judge. Three allegations remain. The case is scheduled to go to court in early 2014.

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