Ohio: former school teacher sues because she has a phobia of children

Maria Waltherr-Willard, 61, is a former high school teacher. In a lawsuit filed in Ohio, she accuses school district administrators of discriminating against her because of her rare phobia, which causes her to irrationally fear young children. Oops. (AP)


  1. Lady, if the little ones frighten you so; by all means..retire.

    Vaya con Dios….Bon chance!  But to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to try and weasel some sort of payout is just short of despicable.  Somewhere out there are real people with real problems…the teacher/pedophobe is not one.

    Reminds me of a firefighting ‘colleague’ who brought a doctors note that said ‘please excuse this person from firefighting duties as they are allergic to smoke.’

    That person no longer works in my department.

        1. lets see you turn down a multi million dollar contract.

          i think the problem you’re citing is a cultural/systemic one where we as a nation enjoy the violence enough to warrant the spectacle on national TV.

          1. I’m pretty sure that at every point of my life, I would have turned down brain damage no matter how much it was paying.

        2. Excellent point.  Just like how research scientists that don’t want to be exposed to biohazards should, I don’t know, get a job in the NFL?

    1. Oh SNAP!  You are offended that some people make their living in athletics then?  Just so you know, they are suing because league officials knew about the dangers of hits to the head for years and purposely hid that information from the players.

        1. If that someone was offered a multimillion dollar contract at 18 and was instructred to play in ways that unnecesarily increases their risk of brain trauma and the people in charge could have agreed to make simple changes to reduce the risk and their parents are the type to value athletics more than intellect and have been drilling that into them their whole life…

          Than yeah, they probably do have brain damage, but it isn’t their fault, they were victimized.

  2. Slam dunk for the school district.  Yes, we recognize your disability.  However, it is an “essential job function” that you interact with children.  We cannot “reasonably accommodate” your disability without impairing the essential job function.  What kind of cake do you want at your retirement party?  (I deal with this stuff for school districts for a living.)

      1. There is a difference between an actual medical phobia, and a popular term that is used to describe hatred rather than fear. Agoraphobes don’t go out and demand that malls and fields be walled off into tiny cubicles.

  3. Both Ms. Jardin’s and Mr. Pescowitz’s  extremely brief summaries of the article leave out what I think is a very important “detail”:

    The woman was functioning perfectly fine- phobia and all (which the school district was made aware of a decade ago the first time they asked if she would transfer to teach younger-aged students).

    She was a high school teacher; she was transferred to teach middle school, which, as the article reports, triggered the phobia and led to her resignation.

    It is not the case, as Xeni’s summary implies, that the woman woke up one day and decided she was afraid of children and is going to sue her employer. Oops.

    1. Exactly. It’s as if you had a phobia of clowns, and worked in a dog daycare. Then your company transferred you to work in clown college. It seems to me that her complaint is actually pretty legitimate.

      1. No, it’s more like you start working the mail room in a clown college, do lousy work for a few decades, then tell them you have a clown phobia, and 10 years after that announcement they don’t need as many people working in the mail room but rather than fire you they offer you a job in the administrator’s office (which has a window so you know you will occasionally catch a glimpse of one of the clown students), and you accept that transfer and work there for a year and a half before quitting so you can sue them.

      2. It’s more like you had a peanut allergy and worked in a factory producing Kit Kat bars, where you worked for years without incident, and then they transferred you to a factory producing chocolate coated peanuts.

      3. It’s more like you had a fear of silly analogies, and were employed to listen to wiretaps of mob bosses being investigated for rigging kangaroo-boxing matches, and then were ordered to start monitoring this thread.

    2. Additionally, she’s alleging that they transferred her to the middle school in retaliation for her talking with parents about the discontinuation of face-to-face language classes at the high school. Definitely not as clear cut as the summary implies.

      1. I think the school ending its face-to-face language classes should be a bigger story than the lawsuit. The lawsuit is one teacher’s complaint. The end of face-to-face language classes is an issue that potentially affects a lot of students.

    3. But here’s the thing: she decided to keep drawing a paycheck for 1 1/2 years despite knowing she couldn’t do a good job in her position.  Ethically and legally, that’s fraud.

      Besides…junior high school students these days on average are taller than their parents, the boys’ voices have changed to their adult register, the girls menstruate and get pregnant….they’re not young children.  Claiming that moving down ONE GRADE was that detrimental to her health is also fraud.

      Personally, I think the school district moved her as a way to “convince” her to retire because she had been such a horrible teacher for so long (you might want to read some of the eyewitness accounts in the other thread) but thanks to union rules couldn’t be gotten rid of.

      1. Aging is a continuum. The point at which kids are young enough to trigger her fear is arbitrary but real, and neither you nor I knows where it is. It may well be that there are enough kids in the middle school (my middle school was 6-8th grade so she is likely exposed to kids several years younger not just the ones she teaches) who fall below that threshold to make it a problem, while at the high school (9th graders as the youngest) there wouldn’t have been.

        1. According to the article, no 6th graders in that school, only 7th and 8th. She had been working with 9th graders (technically, offering classes for higher levels, but no one would take her classes once they’d been with her for a year). It’s a small shift from the POV of physical appearance; she wasn’t dropped down into a 3rd grade classroom.

          Have you spent time recently in a middle school? 7th and 8th graders are not young children. They don’t look, smell, dress or act like young children. It’s actually not as much of a continuum as you think. Puberty hits hard. There’s a reason why our educational system has moved this age out of the grade schools….they really aren’t children anymore.

          It’s an excuse, not a reason.

  4. Her real disabling fear is a fear of retiring on just her pension and not some extra sweet lawsuit bucks too.

      1. Come now: condemning random strangers from ignorance is more than half the fun of this entire exercise…now stop reading this and get back to work, you!

      2. Someone claiming to have had her class compared her in the other thread to the character Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. After reading that, I’m prone to condemn her on general principle. 

    1. The Shining Omen Exorcist…
      The detox scene from Trainspotting…How can ya not love the lil’ darlins?

  5. As long as there is a reasonable accommodation the school system can do to deal with her disability, then she’ll likely win. Ironically, putting her Middle School class online might be considered a reasonable accommodation, but might also lead her no longer being necessary.

  6. I get the feeling a lot of the commenters on this thread have never had to deal with the fallout when your child has a bad teacher for a year. Basically, they lose the year of education. You’re lucky if you don’t have to pay for professional help to get them back on track.

    And in the case of a foreign language teacher, this can be a problem potentially for every year the child is in that school, not just for one.

    I’ve worked with schools enough to recognize the signs for what’s going on here: this is a particularly horrible teacher who has been negatively impacting two foreign language departments in a school for decades and they have been unable to get rid of her because she knows just how to use the system to get what she wants, which is a guaranteed paycheck and pension for doing the least amount of work possible.

    Seriously, read what the students have been going through who have had to deal with this teacher over the years. This isn’t a discrimination lawsuit….this is a troll laughing all the way to the bank.

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