Children-phobic teacher forced to retire, school in the wrong


Maria C. Waltherr-Willard taught French for 35 years at Mariemont High School. When the Mariemont School District ended the French program in 2009, it also relocated her to the junior high, where she was then forced to resign. Why? Because she has a medically proven phobia of young children.

According to a Jan. 13 ABC News article by Alyssa Newcomb, the condition causes 61-year-old Waltherr-Willard’s blood pressure to rise when in the presence of children, which increases her risk of a stroke. Waltherr-Willard is now suing the school for discrimination.

The question then arises — why did the school move Waltherr-Willard into an environment they knew she couldn’t work in? Was it so that they could save money or were there other reasons involved? I believe the school was trying to force her to quit.

After Waltherr-Willard taught Spanish at the junior high for a year, she applied to return to the high school, this time to teach in the Spanish program. The school, however, did not accept her application and she was forced to resign. Afterwards, the school actually hired an additional teacher to the Spanish program at the high school.

Waltherr-Willard submitted medical documentation to the school stating that she could not teach at a level lower than high school, her lawsuit claims. It is clear that the school knew she would not be able to work at the junior high for long.

According to her lawsuit, as reported in the ABC News article, “Working with these younger students adversely affected [Waltherr-Willard’s] health, due to her disability.” If the school district knew all this information ahead of time, why did administrators send her to work with younger students anyway?

Several concerns could have been the motivation for her transfer to the junior high school. One reason could be that she was no longer teaching effectively at the high school level and so they were forced to move her down to a lower level. Another could be that she was not getting along with the teaching staff, but they could not fire her for this, and so they moved her to a junior high in order to manipulate her into retirement. Perhaps it could be that she was not getting along with her students, creating tension in the classroom, and the school forced her to resign by moving her to teach younger children.

At any rate, not being straightforward with someone is not doing them justice and may come back to hurt you, which is what happened in this case. The school obviously wanted to let Waltherr-Willard go by manipulative means. This is not just, as we all deserve to know why we are no longer wanted by an institution.

They should have been straightforward with Waltherr-Willard and either fired her or kept her on. If she was in fact not teaching the class as well as she could have been, the district should have fired her and given her a reason for it. If administrators wanted her to resolve issues concerning staff or students, they should have strived to advise her on how to do so, then, if she failed, they could have proceeded to fire her. If the only problem was that she was expensive to keep on and they wanted her to retire, that is unacceptable.

John Forsee is a junior in journalism and mass communication in digital media. Please send comments to