Ohio court rules against ex-teacher who sued for discrimination over her phobia of young kids



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CINCINNATI — A retired teacher who sued a school district, saying administrators discriminated against her because of a phobia that makes her fear young children, lost her appeal in the federal case on Wednesday.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld a lower-court decision that had dismissed Maria Waltherr-Willard's breach-of-contract claim against Mariemont City Schools. The U.S. District Court in Cincinnati also had ruled in favor of the school district on her other claims, including age and disability discrimination.

Attorney Brad Weber, who represented Waltherr-Willard, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The 63-year-old teacher, who had taught Spanish and French at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati since the 1970s, said she was transferred to a middle school in 2009. Her lawsuit said the seventh- and eighth-graders triggered her phobia, causing her blood pressure to soar and forcing her to retire in the middle of the 2010-11 school year. Her lawsuit sought unspecified damages.

An attorney for the school district had said Waltherr-Willard was transferred because the French program at the high school was being turned into an online one and the middle school needed a Spanish teacher. A message seeking comment was left for the district's attorney on Wednesday.

The appeals court said in its ruling that the lower court was correct in ruling in the school district's favor on the various claims. On the breach-of-contract issue, the court said Waltherr-Willard contended that her correspondence with several unidentified school officials created a contract that required Mariemont to keep her at the high school.

"But the Mariemont School Board undisputedly never ratified such a contract, which means for our purposes that there was not one," the appeals court said in its ruling.

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