You can never fire me

Maria Waltherr-Willard taught French and Spanish language classes for close to 35 years as a high school teacher in Mariemont Ohio. I don’t know where that is so don’t ask.

Waltherr-WillardDoesn’t she look like a nice person in the picture? Well, her story goes that she heard her district was considering putting the classes she teaches online. That could have led to her being laid off, or so she thought. Waltherr-Willard didn’t like that idea and she talked to some parents about the district’s decision to eliminate face-to-face language courses. The parents made a big deal about it and Waltherr-Willard says that in 2010 the school district sent her to teach at the junior high as punishment for causing a ruckus. She eventually quit teaching and sued the school district.

This is where the scam part comes in, and it’s a good one. The kindly Waltherr-Willard claims she was assured early in her career that she would not have to teach younger children. And of course junior high schools have younger children in great quantities. They’re practically filling the halls and classrooms with younger children.

Well Waltherr-Willard showed up for work at the junior high and – get this – herpedophobia kicked in. She doesn’t claim to have pedophilia which is something vastly different. She says she has pedophobia. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t really get it at first but now I know it’s the fear of young children. I’m at a bit of a loss for how she thinks she is going to convince anyone that junior high kids are much different from the regular high school kids she hung around with for DECADES but that’s her lawyer’s problem. I mean, how could she work with sophomores and juniors in high school for about 35 years without having any problems until she was transferred to teach 8th and 9th grade? Those kids are just a few years younger than the ones she taught for 35 years. She must have bumped into an 8th grader from time to time in the high school.

Well it has been reported that documents her lawyers filed in the case from her medical doctor, her psychiatrists, and her psychologists say that she experiences stress, anxiety, chest pains, vomiting, nightmares and higher than healthy blood pressure when she’s around young children. I’m willing to give her the high blood pressure thing because I’ve been around young teens, too.

These 8th graders don't seem that dangerous.

But I wonder. . . do you think that her doctor and her psychiatrists and psychologists have any concrete proof that she experiences these symptoms? Is there a test to see if you actually have fear of 14 year olds as compared to 16 and 17 year olds? I think they are all going off what Waltherr-Willard tells them. They aren’t going to school with her to see if she really barfs when the kids walk by. If she’s believable when she says she has chest pains then they go with it and support their patient.

If she’s really good at acting up a storm and conning these people, and I’ve met a couple of people who are really good at that kind of thing in my line of work, then she can’t be fired. Or if she is fired she gets to sue the school district like crazy and try to make tons of money. If she does a really good job playing it up she has a ticket to ride the gravy train.

You see, the Americans With Disabilities Act basically says you can’t discriminate against people with phobia disorders. The school district has to make reasonable accommodations. How do you accommodate a school teacher who suddenly learns she is terrified to be around kids? It’s a good question and it’s why this is a really good scam. Maybe they can lock her in some shed out back – for her own safety of course – or let her hide in an office all day and play solitaire on the computer.

Garlic farmThink about the applications of this one. Go get a job working for a farmer who grows garlic, and then after a few months ‘suddenly’ become aware you have alliumphobia. You know, fear of garlic. The farmer can’t fire you. He has to reasonably accommodate your disability by…well I guess paying you to stay home so you don’t freak out at the smell of garlic.

How about this one: Take a year’s worth of classes to become a dental hygienist at your local community college, get a job at a dental practice and discover you have dentophobia. Care to guess what that one is?

The possibilities are just about endless. There are hundreds and hundreds of phobias recognized by the medical and psychological establishment. Go get a job in retail and claim kleptophobia, the fear of people stealing. Get hired on as a janitor somewhere messy and get myxophobia, the fear of slime. I really reached for that one but you get the point. It’s sort of like a fun game to see how you can turn a real job into a cushy routine of doing nothing. You have to spend a lot of time talking to shrinks but that’s not too taxing. The only real tricky part is remembering how to keep your story straight.

This is a great scam. I don’t see anyone facing jail time because the phobia thing is so subjective and the payoff is potentially huge. Why not give it a shot?

-Samuel Owen

 © Samuel Owen 2012. All rights reserved. Please read important notices and disclaimers by clicking here.

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