There is a lot that is very wrong about the recent revelation that Lakota West High School math teacher George C. Merk paid $66,173 by the tax payers was placed on a 45 day license suspension beginning over the summer months. The teacher admitted to inappropriate communication with students of a sexual nature which was revealed during a conference with district staff Jan. 11, 2012, concluding with a consent agreement dated June 26, 2013. That is a long-span of time to resolve one human resources issue. Merk’s five-year teaching license was suspended from June 12 through July 26 but he is clear for 2013-14 school year. This case does not surprise me as I have verbal confirmation of many such stories, and usually the press does not investigate them. However, in this case, Michael Clark broke the story in the Cincinnati Enquirer which did surprised me as it required a public records request to get to the facts. As the story broke, both the Enquirer and the Journal had well-written stories which explained the facts in great detail by Hannah Poturalski and Michael Clark that was a great service to the community, and can be seen in their entirety below for the convenience of the curious investigator complete with original links to the stories as they appeared in online form.
Michael D. Clark reports: in The Cincinnati Enquirer
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.
Staff Writer–The Journal
LIBERTY TWP. —
A Lakota West High School teacher whose teaching license was suspended for actions with students described as insubordinate and deceitful by the district will be returning to the classroom this August.
George C. Merk, 41, of Loveland, was placed on a 10-day unpaid suspension in March 2012 following an internal investigation by school officials. He has since been approved for teaching math in the 2013-14 school year at a salary of $66,173.
During a conference with district staff on Jan. 11, 2012, Merk reportedly admitted to:
- having text message communication with students regarding sexual orientation, first sexual experiences and other personal issues
- failing to report a student was bullied
- providing a student with his cell phone number through a Facebook message
- posting Facebook statuses about students’ academic levels and disparaging Lakota West High School administration
- receiving a text message from a student offering to buy him an iPad
- denying having received a picture of a condom box in a text message from a student.
“This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by Lakota Local School District employees,” wrote Superintendent Karen Mantia in a formal reprimand from Feb. 15, 2012. “Mr. Merk, your actions described above were insubordinate, deceitful, unacceptable and unprofessional.”
The district then submitted a report to the Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Professional Conduct. As part of the investigation, Merk entered into a consent agreement — dated June 26, 2013 — with ODE that outlines several stipulations.
The terms of the agreement include:
- Merk’s five-year teaching license being suspended for 45 days, from June 12 through July 26
- detailed reports on Merk’s conduct will be submitted to ODE every three months for two years
- completing 24 hours of training on appropriate teacher-student boundaries
- not communicating with current students using Facebook, text messages and other electronic means.
Merk’s attorney, Julie C. Ford, of the Dayton firm Doll, Jansen, Ford & Rakay, said her client fully cooperated with the investigation by ODE.
“Mr. Merk was not accused of having a sexual or otherwise inappropriate relationship with any students; at most, the school district concluded he had discussed topics that might have been considered inappropriate,” Ford said.
The investigation ended last December, but a proposed penalty wasn’t reached until the end of the 2012-13 academic year, she said.
Ford said her client didn’t attempt to negotiate a lesser penalty or go through a full hearing process before his current teaching and principal’s licenses were to expire at the end of June.
“He therefore signed the consent agreement not because he was guilty of any wrongdoing but only to put this matter behind him and to avoid any delays in the renewals of his licenses,” Ford said. “Mr. Merk continues to be a model teacher and employee at Lakota. Mr. Merk looks forward to resuming his teaching work in the fall.”
Merk joined the Lakota teaching staff in 2002, after six years teaching at Wilmington City Schools. Merk’s personnel file at Lakota doesn’t include any other disciplinary or performance issues.
“Mr. Merk is an outstanding teacher who takes great pride in his profession,” reads an evaluation dated May 16, 2013. “He goes above and beyond the district’s expectations, and his students are successful as the result of his efforts in the classroom.”
Now that this story is out, I will have a lot more to say about it in subsequent articles. But the gist of the situation is this– George C. Merk is not worth $66,173 as a public employee and I resent having to pay such people so much money with my taxes. People like him are low quality personalities who are instructing kids to be low-quality adults. The very nature of Merk even desiring to inquire about the sexual nature of his students as a 41-year-old man is disgusting. In a sexual context people are often attracted to others who share their intellectual values even though much is focused on physical attributes. Merk’s tendency to desire juicy gossip about the sexual nature of his students indicate that Merk intellectually is equal to his students, which disqualifies him as any kind of intellectual leader by my measure and he should be terminated from the Lakota school district. Teachers should not have access to students outside of a classroom whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network tool, because as instructors, teachers should be operating at a superior intellectual position.
However, as critical as I often am of the Lakota school board, and Superintendent Mantia, they have no real control over any disciplinary action against Merk because the Lakota math teacher is protected by his labor union—which is why his punishment was just silly words issued by Mantia and his suspension was carried out when the school was already shut down for the summer. The teachers and their labor union run the asylum where the Zombies of Lakota know that bad behavior cannot be punished, yet the tax payers are “forced” to support such behavior through force with their property values just because the school exists near their homes.
The punishment to Merk for his disgraceful actions is essentially nothing but a little embarrassment. He has still been paid a salary that is 20 to 30% more than the average Lakota resident for a job that is only active for 7.5 to 9 hour per day, five days a week, nine months out of the year. Merk does not appreciate his job otherwise he would not have engaged in the behavior outlined above displaying a low intellectual understanding of sexual context that is closer to high school kids with thriving pituitary glands not yet acclimated to adult life. George Merk, and people like him should not be in a class room because they lack the intellectual high ground with their students, and have lost their ability to teach. A teacher is not an equal to the student; they should be the type of people students aspire to become. When a teacher demonstrates that they are no better than the rest of the puberty bound young people, then moral authority is lost, and instruction is nearly impossible. Worse than that, the people of Lakota should not be forced to pay for such employees with tax increases and social extortion.
Of course I will have more to say on this issue, but for now just the contents of Merk’s actions should be considered with the punishment he received—which is to say virtually nothing. When Merk’s attorney Julie C. Ford stated that “He (Merk) signed the consent agreement not because he was guilty of any wrongdoing but only to put this matter behind him and to avoid any delays in the renewals of his licenses, she was saying that Mr. Merk did not recognize that he did anything wrong. When Ford said Merk was not accused of having a sexual or otherwise inappropriate relationship with any students; at most, the school district concluded he had discussed topics that might have been considered inappropriate.” Merk and his attorney Ford in this case do not consider having text message communication with students regarding sexual orientation, sexual experiences and other personal issues to be inappropriate between a student and a teacher. Further, failing to report a student was bullied is not negligent behavior as indicated by Merk–or providing a student with his cell phone number through a Facebook message. Posting Facebook statuses about students’ academic levels and disparaging Lakota West High School administration is apparently acceptable behavior with these professionals based on their statements. It is also OK to receive a text messages from students offering to buy Merk an iPad which should be considered an obvious bribe. Those are the kinds of actions that Ford stated Merk might have performed inappropriately leaving the door open for anti-concept interpretation declaring innocence at the same time.
These are the types of employees that tax payers are told are invaluable to Lakota’s community. When the Levy Zombies take to the streets in the fall of 2013 for the November tax increase they are fighting for teachers like George C. Merk to continue the kind of behavior that occurred under the classroom tutelage of a Lakota West math teacher who will return to the classroom for the 2013/2014 school year. Teachers like Merk are more interested in being “cool” to their students instead of actually teaching them anything, as the boundaries between teacher and student have been intentionally blurred by a failed education system that produces teachers who would rather be 15-year-old kids than 41-year-old adults making $66,173 a year. The teacher is paid to be better than the children, so that students will try. The teacher is not paid to be one of the “cool guys” in an ocean of subservient children who would rather manipulate their way to a good grade instead of actually working for it. It is that second example that Merk is so guilty and the reason he should not be employed as a teacher in any public school anywhere.