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Former teacher in Ohio sues, cites fear of children

Maria Waltherr-Willard retired from teaching.

AP

Maria Waltherr-Willard retired from teaching.

CINCINNATI — 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.

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Waltherr-Willard 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 Americans with Disabilities Act and that the district violated it by transferring her 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,’’ Winters said of Walter-Willard’s motivation to sue. ‘‘Let’s keep in mind that our goal here is to provide the best teachers 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.’’

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