Culture

Teacher with Fear of Kids Loses Discrimination Lawsuit Appeal

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Why she wanted to be a teacher in the first place is not clear.

On Wednesday, an Ohio teacher lost her appeal to a 2013 discrimination lawsuit in which she had claimed that her district had failed to provide “reasonable accommodations” for her debilitating fear of children.

Maria Waltherr-Willard had worked as a French and Spanish teacher in Cincinnati for 35 years but was eventually diagnosed with “pedophobia” — a fear of children, particularly those in elementary school.

According to an article in FindLaw, Waltherr-Willard had originally taught the languages in high school — until the district didn’t need her there anymore because it had started teaching French online and already had another Spanish teacher. She then told her boss that she couldn’t teach in elementary school because of her phobia, and that the Americans with Disabilities Act demanded that the school district accommodate her.

And here’s the craziest part: They actually did accommodate her. They agreed to protect her from the elementary kids and let her teach junior high instead.

But according to the district, Waltherr-Willard had been teaching there for only six months before she started spreading rumors that the high school wasn’t offering French classes and the superintendent had to meet with her and tell her to stop. (Waltherr-Willard claims that the superintendent “screamed at her” and “lunged across the table at her” during this meeting.)

Waltherr-Willard demanded to be returned to the high school, forcing the school to again explain to her that this was not possible because there was no job available for her there. Not long after that, she retired.

According to her lawyers, this retirement was illegal discrimination against her disability. After moving to the junior high, they claim, Waltherr-Willard’s blood pressure rose, putting her at risk for a stroke and giving her no choice but to retire through no fault of her own. (Despite the fact that her supposed disability actually did not have anything to do with junior-high kids.)

But the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the district/sanity. It explained that even if Waltherr-Willard’s pedophobia had applied to junior-high-school kids, the school was still not responsible because the law only requires “reasonable” accommodations, and creating a position they did not need or firing the other Spanish teacher were not “reasonable” options.

Speaking of “reasonable” — why on earth Waltherr-Willard would choose a career as a schoolteacher when she had a debilitating fear of children is not clear.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter at National Review Online.

Recommended

The Latest