Michael D. Clark reports:
A Lakota West High School math teacher’s license has been suspended for “inappropriate” communications with students, including exchanging recollections of sexual experiences and orientation.
But the teacher, George C. Merk, will return to the classroom at the start of the school year next month.
Merk, 41, was previously suspended without pay in March 2012 for 10 days for what Lakota Schools Superintendent Karen Mantia described as “unacceptable, insubordinate, deceitful and unprofessional” behavior.
According to a Feb. 15, 2012, reprimand issued by Lakota officials, Merk “admitted” to communicating with students via text messages, and other means, of disallowed subjects, including:
- “(Students’) sexual orientation and their sexual experiences.”
- “Your sexual orientation and your first sexual experience.”
- “You denied receiving a picture of a condom box through text message from a student.”
Mantia wrote: “This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
A report on Merk’s behavior and suspension was then submitted to the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct for further investigation. That investigation ended last month under a consent agreement between Merk and the ODE.
The agreement, obtained by The Enquirer through a public records request, revealed that Merk agreed to have his teaching license suspended during the summer break for 45 days, ending July 26. Moreover, he has to complete 24 hours of training “on appropriate teacher-student boundaries” by Sept. 1 and he will no longer “communicate with current students using social media or by other electronic communications.”
Merk’s actions were not considered criminal and did not initiate an investigation by West Chester Township Police, police said.
Merk, who previously taught at Wilmington Schools, declined to comment.
His attorney, Julie Ford of Dayton, said, “(Merk) signed the consent agreement not because he believes he was guilty of any wrongdoing but to put this matter behind him and avoid any delays in the renewals of his current teaching licenses.”
“Both the Lakota school district and Ohio Department of Education are satisfied with this resolution, and Mr. Merk looks forward to resuming his teaching work in the fall,” Ford said.
Diane Brunsman, Lakota’s executive director for human resources, said “the findings of the Ohio Department of Education investigation are not grounds for termination.”
Both Brunsman and Mantia declined to comment further.
Merk was hired by Lakota in 2002 and his current salary is $66,173.
A review of Merk’s personnel file since 2002 showed no indications of previous transgressions and overall he has received high performance reviews by Lakota officials.
Under the state agreement, Lakota is also required to submit “detailed reports” every three months for the next two years to the ODE on Merk’s conduct.