A retired school teacher is suing the school district where she used to teach, claiming school administrators discriminated against her for having a phobia of young children.
Maria Waltherr-Willard, 61, a French and Spanish teacher for 35 years, was diagnosed with pedophobia– the fear of young children– and stated she had previously received support from school administrators. The support, however, disappeared after she opposed measures that would have moved some foreign language courses out of the classroom and have them conducted online.
In her lawsuit, she claims school officials got revenge by reassigning her from her students in high school to younger students in middle school in 2009. Waltherr-Willard accuses school officials of ignoring her physical symptoms brought on by the phobia, which included severe anxiety and hypertension, according to reports from Cincinnati.com.
The lawsuit claims that school officials knew that her working with younger children "adversely affected [Waltherr-Willard's] health, due to her disability," according to the lawsuit.
Reports also indicate that while she suffered decreased levels of health including increased blood pressure and panic attacks, she was able to overcome and help children learn a foreign language, as reported by ABC.
Since the story broke, there has been a large wave a criticism directed at the former teacher, but mental health care professionals claim that her condition is a serious matter that can cause severe health problems such as anxiety, chest pains, vomiting and high blood pressure should she come in close proximity of young children.
"It's a tough phobia. You can't really get away from [children] when you're outside," Caleb Adler, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, told Cincinnati.com. "When you're a teacher, it may not be an issue with older students," he added.
In the lawsuit Walterr-Willard is seeking back and future pay as well as punitive damages and attorney's' fees.