Maria Waltherr-Willard: Teacher Cites Phobia Of Children In Discrimination Suit

Maria Waltherr-Willard, teacher, phobia children

By Alyssa Newcomb

An Ohio high school Spanish and French teacher has sued her school district, claiming it discriminated against her because of her disability -- specifically, a phobia of young children -- her sex and age.

Maria C. Waltherr-Willard, who has no children of her own, had been employed by the Mariemont School District in Cincinnati for 35 years.

During her tenure, Waltherr-Willard, 61, had been diagnosed with specific phobia, general anxiety disorder and a history of hypertension, among other medical conditions. Her specific phobia was severe anxiety around young children, according to the lawsuit.

The Mariemont School District was informed of Waltherr-Willard's health problems, and received medical documentation of her need to remain teaching at the high school level, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

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, said the lawsuit.

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But when the French program at Mariemont High School was eliminated in 2009, the veteran teacher was told that she'd be transferred to a Spanish-teaching position at Mariemont Junior High School, the lawsuit stated.

"Working with these younger students adversely affected [Waltherr-Willard's] health, due to her disability," the lawsuit said, adding that her blood pressure rose so high at times that she was at risk for a stroke.

As the stress of working with younger students took a toll on Waltherr-Willard's health, she still managed to create a successful Spanish middle-school program, the lawsuit said.

Her request for a transfer to the high school for the 2010-2011 school year was denied, the lawsuit said, forcing Waltherr-Willard into early retirement at the age of 59. One Spanish teacher, who was younger and had less experience than Waltherr-Willard, according to the lawsuit, remained at the high school, and later on, the high school added another Spanish teacher.

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Last Wednesday, a federal judge dismissed the claim that the Mariemont School District violated an implied contract to keep Waltherr-Willard from having to teach young students, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The discrimination allegations were not ruled on in order to give the school district's attorneys more time to respond to them.

Waltherr-Willard is seeking past and future pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Messages left by ABC News for Waltherr-Willard's attorney, Bradford Weber, were not immediately returned.

The Mariemont School District declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing litigation.





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179 Comments

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Paul

I'm afraid of junior high school students too, but it's not a phobia. A phobia is an UNREASONING fear of something. The average person has a very good reason to fear JHS students: they are predominantly malicious psychopaths.

January 17 2013 at 8:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scarlett

The fact that this woman is even being taken seriously is what's wrong in America! "Rights" have gotten out of control and been redefined to pacify everybody. Once she said she was "afraid" of children, she should have been fired immediately because she was declaring she was unfit for the job...end of story. Also, firing her would protect her from those scaaaaary children. I have never heard of anyone entering the teaching profession who was afraid of children. That's like becoming a doctor when you're afraid of being around sick people.You just wouldn't. She's a liar.

January 17 2013 at 1:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nikkitytom

This perpetual leaning on 'mental' problems is ridiculous. I am a teacher. I love my children. But I will not teach toddlers. I don't like toddlers. Do I have a phobia? No I do not. I merely don't like very young children. I find them exasperating. But because I'm a private music teacher I get to choose. I make my age limitations very firm and won't take on a child younger than 7 no matter how firmly his mother insists he's Mozart reincarnated.

The result is hundreds of very happy students who loved their lessons, me and the music. And a very happy teacher, who loved her students dearly and rejoiced in every step forward they made.

However, I suspect she's a bit of a whiner. Why? Because she was transferred to a Junior High School class which surely didn't mean she was confronted with toddlers. How big an age difference? A 12 year old rather than a 16 year old. Not much of a difference for a good teacher.

And when her department was closed, she was offered another job. Many people in other jobs would simply lose their job. Period. And not be looking for a lawsuit.

January 16 2013 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dgosbee

Another abuse of the healthcare system as well as our court system. Who did she think she would be teaching when she decided to become a teacher? It will not happen due to the liberal nature of our courts and teaching systems, but she should be cut loose and get someone who wants a good job, not just an income.

January 16 2013 at 6:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Gary

Another Fruitcake....Fire her !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 16 2013 at 4:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bbhuey4213

Isn't this a little like being phobic about horses, becoming a jockey, then complaining because the boss expects you to ride a horse?

January 16 2013 at 1:27 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer

She should be fired. She can't fulfill her duties.

January 16 2013 at 11:54 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
crankybytch

What an embarrassment to the teaching profession. This woman should be fired and spend her retirement in a jail cell for pulling such a scam. The fact that shes worked in schools for the past 35 years around children should worst against her to prove shes a liar and looking for a free paycheck. It's really sickening that people like this mental midget are allowed to work in a school, she's clearly mentally unstable and the children should be protected from her not vice versa!

January 16 2013 at 8:55 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
Howard

Eliminate tenure for all teachers. Why should they expect a job for life? If you are a good teacher, you don't need it. If you're a bad one, we don't need you.

January 16 2013 at 7:31 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Howard's comment
penbram

Howard,
I just ask you to consider one thing. Do you have any memory of a teacher that you disliked at the time because she/he was so strict? And made you do more work than other teachers? Did you hate going to that class because you knew it would be hard, and that you would be held to very high standards? Kids do not typically enjoy classes that make them work hard....they usually do not appreciate strict teachers until later in life, when they have gotten older and wiser. That is often why first-yr. teachers are so popular. They are touted as being young and energetic, when sometimes it is their lack of discipline and desire to be "liked" by their students that makes them a favorite.
Mommies and daddies do not like it when their kids are unhappy, so sometimes they complain rather vigorously about the "hard" teacher and support the "easy" teacher.
I have vivid memories of the advanced Alg and Trig teacher who made me work my butt off...her class was h-a-r-d and parents complained to the administration all the time. But looking back, I can see now that she was the best teacher I ever had. I would have benefitted greatly if all my teachers had been as strict and if the courses had been as rigorous.
Bottom line...I know I went on a bit....good teachers are sometimes seen as mean and difficult. Inexperienced teachers are sometimes seen as effective ones because the kids are happy and that makes life easier for mom and dad. Good, really good, teachers do need tenure. Tenure is necessary to keep dissatisfied parents from being able to "get rid" of teachers who add any measure of stress to their kids lives.
It happens more often than you would ever believe.

January 16 2013 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to penbram's comment
NKG0515

SMART school officials can see if a teacher is good or bad. If the teacher has multiple complaints, then something needs to be done. If the complaint is only from one family, then it really isn't a teaching issue, but an issue between the parents & teacher that the school needs to mediate.

Tenure does NOTHING to keep "dissatisfied" parents from getting a teacher fired because no school district is JUST going to go on a parents word.

GOOD teachers KNOW how to teach & how to work with their kids, "Bad" teachers need to be weeded out.

January 16 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
Say NO to libs!

I had a teacher in 10th grade who was a miserable SOB. Mr. O'Brian saw my Dad ringing a bell for the Salvation Army in front of our bank at Christmas time, (they had helped his family greatly in 1916, when his Dad died suddenly of influenza, and he did whatever he could for them his whole life). This so-called teacher said, in front of the class, I saw your Dad buying your clothes at "Sal's" today. Despite my Mom's protests at his abhorrent behavior, he remained a teacher. I got moved from his class, but the damage was done. Needless to say, I HATED school and to this day am amazed I graduated.

January 16 2013 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
CallieS247

She cant be around children and is a teacher? LOLOL that is soooo funny. ALL school kids are children - including high school age. I say let her go. She is not into ALL students - only those SHE decides are good enough

January 16 2013 at 6:13 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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