If you have a fear of children, is teaching the right career choice?

downeyart0726 (Medium)Seems like this teacher chose the wrong profession if her phobia is young children:

From AJC.com:

A former high school teacher suing the school district where she used to work is accusing its 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 that when she was transferred to the district’s middle school in 2009, the seventh- and eighth-graders triggered her phobia, caused her blood pressure to soar and forced 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 American with Disabilities Act and that 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 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.”

The lawsuit said that 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.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

50 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

January 15th, 2013
1:01 pm

oh, for the love of God no.

if you don’t like kids, don’t teach. what on earth could someone be (not) thinking?

the good doctor

January 15th, 2013
1:02 pm

WhiteWolf of the Bones

January 15th, 2013
1:20 pm

I would be more scared of high schoolers, than middle schoolers. This is such a bogus claim, and yet will cost money that they don’t have to waste. Some people simply don’t have any shame at all.

Private Citizen

January 15th, 2013
1:25 pm

I think it would be reasonable to accommodate the teacher. High school and middle school are hugely different environments. The part about moving teachers around without asking them, I can relate to. It gets to the point where the bosses play checkers with people to the point of indulgence. Treating teachers like objects, it is depersonalising, especially considering the organic nature of teaching. I sure would like to see some data about frequency of staff movement in school districts. I’ve been in a school building where they move half of the teachers around every year. It’s weird.


January 15th, 2013
1:27 pm


So I used to like computers until I started to have to work with one every day — now they terrify me.

Give me some cash chumps!

Private Citizen

January 15th, 2013
1:40 pm

Worker Rights:

Freedom of speech

Freedom from fear

Freedom from discrimination

Right to life, liberty and personal security

Freedom from slavery and freedom of movement

Freedom from torture

Right to recognition and equality before the law

Right to property ownership

Freedom of opinion and expression

Right to peaceful assembly

Freedom from compulsory association

Right to work and to choose one’s employer

Right to equal pay for equal work and fair remuneration

Right to rest and leisure

Right to basic living standards sufficient to ensure health and well-being


Heavy sigh

January 15th, 2013
1:52 pm

I don’t know about the efficacy of an on-line course for a foreign language. Was it a maneuver to trim the payroll and encourage her to retire? It would have been a tough decision to take a job out of her
district – we teachers become attached to ‘our’ school and school system. Still, children are children and, unless her lawyers can come up with a confirmed diagnosis, I don’t see how she can win her case.

HS Public Teacher

January 15th, 2013
2:11 pm

I think that a (seemingly) valid point is missed here.

This teacher was a successful teacher in HIGH SCHOOL. Then, the school system forced her to transfer to a MIDDLE SCHOOL.

If she really does have some medical condition, regardless of how silly it may seem, are you guys saying it is too bad for her?

Here is an analogy…. Imagine if you are a great farmer. You can grow the heck out of soybeans and are very successful. However, you have a severe peanut allergy and suddenly you are forced to change your crops to peanuts – maybe Uncle Sam said so. Is this fair to you?

If you look at it from that perspective, I thin that she may have a point.

HS Public Teacher

January 15th, 2013
2:11 pm

thin = think

HS Public Teacher

January 15th, 2013
2:18 pm

@Private Citizen,

In addition to your list, there must also be something that protects a worker from employer fraud.

What if you apply for a job as a carpenter? You are great working with wood and have been trained to work with wood. You have years of experience working with wood. So, you get a job at Company X with the title of “wood worker”. It took you some time to get this job. You had to go to 4 interviews, a background check, finger printing, and so on.

The first day on the job, you set up in the wood working shop. You then begin to produce your great produces. After a couple of weeks, your boss then says, “too bad. We now want you to clean toilets every day. This is permanent and we’ll let you know if it ever changes.”

Doesn’t this employee have a right to be angry? After all of the time and effort that person put into getting the right job for them (wood working), didn’t that employer essentially commit fraud?

Employees have rights, too. Employers cannot abuse their employees. This is what Georgia and other “right to work” States forget.


January 15th, 2013
2:23 pm

Total BS money ploy. They should go after the fraud’s pension as well.

History Teacher

January 15th, 2013
2:35 pm

I taught middle school one year and hated every minute of it. I still do not like that age level and have taught at the high school level since my one year in middle school. Does this mean I have a phobia? No it does not. There is probably a lot more to the story that we are not hearing. After all, her attorney seems to be the one giving the details to the news media. We will not got all the details–especially since the truth might be a lot more boring. Maybe she got tired of the all the preparation for the classes. Changing from high to middle school requires a great deal of work and maybe she could not or would not handle that. Her attorney wants her story out there but the school board cannot say much because of privacy concerns. The headline makes for a fun article, but lets face it, there is more involved here that her supposed phobia.


January 15th, 2013
2:48 pm

“Seems like this teacher chose the wrong profession if her phobia is young children:”

She began teaching high school in 1976. She didn’t begin receiving treatment for the disorder until 1991 which leads me to believe that she likely wasn’t aware of the disorder when she began teaching. And it didn’t present a problem until 2009 when she was transferred to the middle school. She taught 33 years with no issues related to this phobia. I’d say that’s a pretty good career run.

HS Public Teacher

January 15th, 2013
2:53 pm

Leave it to the media and the ‘general public’ to have an ignorant knee-jerk reaction in order to paint any and all teachers in a bad way.

(the other) Rodney

January 15th, 2013
3:07 pm

Horse-hockey, I call it. I can’t count the times I’ve been moved or asked to perform a function I wasn’t necessarily hired for. it’s Standard Operating Procedure for most employers.

If she wasn’t able to deal with the stress of her job, and that’s really what we’re talking about here, she should have made the choice to seek other employment. To claim that you can only work with a certain kind of people is, at least, very, frighteningly close to bigotry. Try substituting “black people” for “young children” and see how far your disorder will get you.

drew (former teacher)

January 15th, 2013
3:07 pm

Let’s see…she taught HS for 33 years (1976 – 2009) before being transferred to middle school. And she’s been under treatment for her phobia since 1991.

Yeah, right…she’s just played the system for 35 years so she could get the big payday with this scam! Jeez…for some folks on here, everything is black and white, and they’re more than happy to tell you which one it is.


January 15th, 2013
3:10 pm

Actually I can understand this teacher because infants and toddlers unnerve me. My siblings and friends with kids knew this and did not ask me to babysit. I don’t even hold babies. I would never choose to work in a daycare. After about age five I’m good with kids and have enjoyed being a guest in MS and HS to teach personal finance and budgeting.

Any parent and non-parent can tell you all ages of children are not the same. Each age group has its own needs, which is why we have middle schools. This teacher taught in High school because she could handle that. There is a big different between the needs and teaching of MS and HS children. She did not bail the moment they gave her middle school. she tried to make it work for a couple of years. She tried to get transferrred to another HS rather than just bail on the students but that didn’t work either. She couldn’t take it any more. Better she leave the classroom than nut up and harm students.

Like it or lump it some folks have strange phobias. This one, pedophobia, is hers.

(the other) Rodney

January 15th, 2013
3:11 pm

And for the record, HS Public Teacher and the rest of the educators reading this … I am a full supporter of teachers, educators, and the system. My mother was a teacher for 30 years. I have several cousins who are teachers. I respect all of them.

But you must try and realize that your profession is now more “corporate” than ever before. You either must begin to understand that it’s pretty much “out with the old and in with the new” when it comes to how your jobs are handled and with what requirements you must meet. Just like the rest of the working world. Refusal to do so will only lead to further headaches, for you, and potentially a job loss.

What's Best for Kids?

January 15th, 2013
3:21 pm

Although I agree that this teacher is crying wolf, I would like to take exception to moving teachers. Here in the metro area, a move to a similar school could mean an two more hours of a commute.
If a person is being moved, there is no relocation, no buy out of a house, none of the perks that corporate offers. So we have a choice: either treat us all the way corporate or don’t treat us that way at all…take the crooked with the strait.
That is the problem that I see: teachers being told to be happy we have jobs and that those jobs can be taken away at any time, but the powers that be will not treat you appropriately.


January 15th, 2013
3:30 pm

They say she had a phobia of YOUNG children. Going from teaching 14-18 year olds to teaching 11-14 year olds hardly qualifies as teaching young children.

If they transferred her from high school to pre-k, I could maybe see the point, but this is not a group of young children. Middle schoolers are annoying, yes, but hardly phobia inducing. It isn’t like they need help tying shoes and going to the bathroom like preschoolers and toddlers do. Sounds like it was time for the lady to retire and she just wanted to pad her account.

former DC teacher

January 15th, 2013
3:31 pm

I don’t understand the lawsuit. The article states that the French class was being converted to an online course. The teacher could have been fired(laid off) but instead they transferred her to another school another teaching position. If she did not want to teach there, she had options. She could have applied to another district. No one forced her to stay in a place that was unhealthy for her. Blaming a company/district because they cannot accommodate her specific disability is unfounded since her disability is the core of the district (being in the presence of kids). She had a good run as a teacher and if it became unbearable just leave/retire and enjoy your retiring years. We are a sue happy society.


January 15th, 2013
3:54 pm

Fire the teacher and the union that is representing her!

The good doctor

January 15th, 2013
4:00 pm

To “Private Citizen, ” you cannot be serious?

(the other) Rodney

January 15th, 2013
4:12 pm

What’s Best For Kids? I’m not sure what you’ve been told, but the majority of us don’t get such perks. Typically, executives would yes, as would the leadership in the school system. But if my job moved me to say, another building out in Gwinnett (I currently work and live in Buckhead) there would be absolutely no perks involved. It’s pretty much exactly as you said it – we’re ALL being told to be happy we have a job.


January 15th, 2013
4:36 pm

I work in middle school and love it. However, my sister who taught a high school elective for over thirty years tried subbing at middle school and lasted only four days. First of all, the kids are totally different animals with these new things called hormones that make them nuts. Then there’s the fact that high school students choose to be in classes such as French and art, but middle schoolers are required to rotate through whatever electives are offered and are often in classes they’re just not interested in. They frequently use this as an excuse to misbehave and not participate in class making life difficult for veteran middle school teachers and miserable, I would think, for someone used to more mature, well behaved students. In addition, the elective teachers at my school are discouraged to pass students no matter what.

The lawsuit seems a little silly in light of the fact that she has in enough time to retire with a pension, but I can certainly see how she is disheartened by her treatment.

Atlanta Mom

January 15th, 2013
5:13 pm

Middle school teachers are my heroes. I can’t think of a worse time of life.


January 15th, 2013
5:13 pm

It’s one thing to want to sue.

It’s another thing for the Courts to accept your lawsuit.

If the Court actually accepts this absurd suit, it will only confirm what a joke justice has become in America.

we need Paul Harvey...

January 15th, 2013
5:16 pm

Read before commenting please. The real questions I have are… was she told the only job available was in the middle school? Were there Spanish teachers still needed at the high school? Were the administration messing with her?

Sad fact is she has a diagnosed ADA recognized disability. The school district better have their ducks in a row or they will lose!


January 15th, 2013
5:44 pm

Wow, I can’t believe this. I guess there’s no limit to stupidity.

mountain man

January 15th, 2013
6:16 pm

This is why the ADA has been perverted. It is no longer a case of hiring someone in a wheelchair where the only accomodation is to put bricks under their desk legs. Now anyone that can think up some “disability: can file a lawsuit. I can’t hear as well as I used to – I think that I should be transferred to an easy job where no one talks to me except through the computer. But then again my eyesight is going, too. Maybe you should just pay me my regular paycheck and let me stay at home.

Sort of like SPED students who have a generic ADD that requires the school to send them to a special school just for them at a cost of $20,000 per year for the little “precious princess”.

Private Citizen

January 15th, 2013
6:17 pm

Doctor, I think you ought to walk the walk before you mock the talk. For one thing, if you’ve got something to say, say it. You’ve got a big title and don’t say anything except use me for an object. Not cool.

mountain man

January 15th, 2013
6:35 pm

“If you have a fear of children, is teaching the right career choice?”

It is the PERFECT career choice. Then she can claim a “disability” and get money from the system.

rural juror

January 15th, 2013
7:13 pm

If this teacher can prove to the court that her phobia of young children actually is a condition with a name and has been documented by her doctor as having this condition, then wouldn’t she have a case? I would like to hear more details.

mountain man

January 15th, 2013
7:21 pm

The ADA only says that REASONABLE ACCOMODATION is required n cases of legitimate disability (first she would have to prove that). Then, if transferring her back to high school is not “reasonable”, then she has no case. If she cannot do her job, she should find herself another job.


January 15th, 2013
7:22 pm

The trouble is, middle school kids are not”young kids.” They are sometimes funny, frequently (en masse) awful, but NOT small kids. I am willing to believe that being sent to middle school to work triggered her blood pressure problems. I have taught middle school aged kids for several years in the past, (two years of sped in addition) and it takes the patience of Job.

It is funny that her system is decrying her leaving in mid-year, YET HERE IN GEORGIA THE TRS MADE IT WORTHWHILE TO LEAVE ON NOVEMBER 1ST!

Truth in Moderation

January 15th, 2013
7:26 pm

I don’t fear kids….. just Barney.
Does he even have a drivers license?

Private Citizen

January 15th, 2013
7:47 pm

“Fire her” from movie Young and Dangerous http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRFoonfB6cA#t=87m36s

Mary G

January 15th, 2013
8:10 pm

After having taught middle school students for more than 30 years I can totally understand this teacher’s phobia. I absolutely love middle school students, but I am in a very small group of teachers.
When all l of those raging hormones and adolescent quirks are confined to a single area it can be d-mned scary !! This lawsuit says far more about the school system who disregarded her request NOT to be placed in a middle school than it does the individual teacher .

Public HS Teacher

January 15th, 2013
8:45 pm

@(the other) Rodney,

I truely feel sorry for you. If you are employed and are just ‘happy to have a job’ then your life must be pretty miserable, or at the very least desperate.

A little about me…. no, I don’t have any degree at all in Education (although I do feel it is a respectable degree). I have a bachelors and masters in engineering. I retired from working at two fortune 500 companies (sequentually) here in Atlanta and THEN decided to teach rather than sit at home and be bored.

As a teacher, my students score an average of 4.0 on the AP test. This is very high, by the way. My students also score among the tops in the State on other standardized test such as end-of-course tests, etc. My point is that the data proves my success as a classroom teacher.

Now that I have established myself, know that what I have to say and my opinion results not only from years in a classroom but also from extensive corporate experience. Your “holier-than-thou” attitude is not appreciated. Because you work in the “real world” does not make you better than a classroom teacher. Also, you know NOTHING of being a classroom teacher unless you have performed the job.

Although it may happen that companies require an employee to move, most (good) companies will ask an employee if they would be willing to relocate rather than force it. When a company starts to treat people like pawns, their reputation quickly goes downhill and good people would chose not to work for them at all. When people live in fear, nothing good happens.

You really sound like you need to find a place in this world where you can be happy. Your posts sound very bitter and on the verge of being angry. Regardless of the economy, good people with good work ethics can succeed – either working for someone or even working for themselves. You just need to find the right place for you.

Best of luck to you.

bootney farnsworth

January 15th, 2013
9:25 pm

I don’t like blood and being directly responsible if another person lives or dies.
sounds like I should be a surgeon. better still, pay me not to be.


January 15th, 2013
9:50 pm

Good for her!!!! Districts do this all the time. The transfer teachers near retirement to a place they worn’t be successful to push them out the door early. This messes with their retirement. School districts do this all the time. I don’t care if this is gamey on the teachers part. She never should have been moved out of the HS after years of dedicated service. Score for the little man. Stick it to the MAN, evil school districts running like a corporation stealing retirements from dedicated poor teachers.


January 15th, 2013
9:56 pm

Public HS Teacher
You in the dream days. Wait till you are almost capping out on maximum pension and they can hire a new teacher for 1/2 your salary to take your place and they move you to special ed or a place where you no experience or qualifications, then they build documentation to fire you and you don’t receive your pension for failure to do your job. You’ll sing a different tune. Us young or new teachers must protect our senior level teachers. We will be almost out the door before we know it. Teacher unions are our only chance of protecting us.


January 15th, 2013
10:12 pm

Keep the teacher but disband all unions. Disband the Federal Department of Education and get rid of at least HALF of the State Department of Education in Georgia. Money saved that could be utilized much better somewhere else.

Private Citizen

January 16th, 2013
12:01 am

Jake – brilliant posts. Thank you.


January 16th, 2013
2:22 am

This is absurd. Nobody has a right to a job, or a job they like. You have to handle the stress, or find something else. I speak as someone who has dealt with anxiety disorder, where going on a kid’s soccer field with all the screaming and other noises caused problems. The doctors have medication and counseling to handle this. Also as a person who worked for an insurance company suffering terrible multimillion dollar losses, which literally made me throw up sometimes. So I’ve been there, and I say all of you who defend this person need to get a life, and she needs to get the right credentials to be transferred to the media center, or find something else.

(the other) Rodney

January 16th, 2013
8:42 am

@Public HS Teacher – wow. Just wow. I’m going to step outside since you’re already up on the cross. :) Maybe it isn’t a cross you’re on – I don’t remember Jesus being so condescending. (I may not be bitter or angry, as you say, but I do have a wickedly pithy tongue).

Reading IS fundamental, but comprehension doesn’t necessarily come with that as evinced by your assumption that I am unhappy in my job. I said “we’re ALL being told to be happy we have a job”, not “I’m just happy to have a job”. I enjoy what I do, and have frequent work-from-home opportunities that only add to that enjoyment. Apologies if I came across bitter or whatever else you gleaned from my post. Twas not my intention.

Now that I’ve addressed the inaccuracies in your post …

The fact that I’ve never taught doesn’t really negate any observations I may make about the resistance to change educators seem to project. I really don’t need to darken the door to a classroom to know that. I have ears to hear with and eyes to see with.

Do I think you’re fairly compensated for your work? No. Do I hold to my contention that most teachers are resistant to change and hate to compromise? Yes.

Private Citizen

January 16th, 2013
3:29 pm

Rodney, you’re a real piece of work, as the saying goes.


January 16th, 2013
7:24 pm

If you have to think about the ans. to this rediculous question, get out of ed. NOW!

Private Citizen

January 17th, 2013
8:33 am

If you have an irrational fear of administrators, is teaching the right career for you, playah?

Why no, I don’t have an irrational fear of administrators. Ms. B is my cousin. What are you talking about?

seen it all

January 17th, 2013
3:57 pm

This lady was not teaching young children. She was teaching teenagers. Eighth grade and ninth grade are not that different in terms of age. First grade and tenth grade- yes. Seventh grade and ninth grade-no. This teacher just didn’t like the middle school environment. I don’t blame her. I don’t either. But don’t blame it on a “fear of young children.” Sounds like bunk to me.