CINCINNATI (AP) - 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.
Waltherr-Willard, who does not have children of her own, said 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 2010-11 school year.
In her lawsuit against the district, filed in federal court in Cincinnati, Waltherr-Willard said her fear of young children falls under the federal American with Disabilities Act and 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 the middle school needed a Spanish teacher.
Winters 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.
The lawsuit said Waltherr-Willard has been treated for her phobia since 1991 and also suffers from general anxiety disorder, high blood pressure and a gastrointestinal illness. She was managing her conditions well until the transfer, according to the lawsuit.