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Teacher with phobia of young children sues school for discrimination

A teacher with a phobia of young children sued her Cincinnati school district for transferring her from a high school post to a middle-school job. She claims it adversely affected her health and was a form of discrimination against her disability.

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Teacher with phobia of young children: Maria Waltherr-Willard, a Cincinnati teacher, sued the school district for transferring her to teach a demographic she fears – young children.

Associated Press

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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.

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

Ms. 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," Mr. Winters said of Walter-Willard's motivation to sue. "Let's keep in mind that our goal here is to provide the bestteachers 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.

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