Discrimination? Or the Wrong Line of Work?

A Cincinnati educator is suing her former school district for effectively forcing her to resign. And how did they force her resignation? By, she alleges, having her teach children.

Many people have been doing double takes upon hearing this story, but here’s the deal: Maria Waltherr-Willard has pedophobia, i.e. a fear of children. For decades, she taught French at Mariemont High School, where working with teenagers did not trigger her phobia.

In 1997, the district asked her to teach an enrichment course for fourth through sixth graders, but she objected to it, citing her phobia – which she’d started getting treatment for six years prior. The district honored her objection.

But Waltherr-Willard was transferred to the middle school in 2009 a) because the high school ended its French program and needed a middle school teacher, or b) out of retaliation for Waltherr-Willard speaking to parents about the program ending, as she contests. She is suing the district for discrimination, saying the switch caused her to retire during the 2010-2011 school year because of phobia-related health concerns.

Public reaction to the case has largely been of the “what was this woman expecting/she shouldn’t be a teacher” variety. What do you think? Does someone in this situation have reason to believe they wouldn’t have to work with children? Should they just teach adults instead?

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