A recent incident involving an educator at Upper Perkiomen High School has tongues wagging and fingers pointing – and the man hasn’t even had his day in court yet.
Frank Mercon, a respected teacher at the school, was charged with failing to report child abuse. One needs to read beyond the headline in order to properly formulate his or her thoughts.
The number of incidents is growing at an alarming rate, prompting many to rush to judgment whenever child abuse is part of a news report. Be concerned and be disgusted but don’t automatically condemn the accused. It is the job of our courts to weigh the evidence and render decisions.
Mercon is accused of failing to report an incident of date rape that was reported to him by a 15-year-old female student in the fall of 2010. At this point it is important to note, that by the reaction of students and parents on social media, Mercon is a popular and much-respected educator at the school. It is easy to view him as a confidant. A look at various internet teacher rating websites shows students give him a five-star (highest) rating. More than a teacher, he is someone many students trust. That’s something a teacher earns. After studying the court documents, that opinion is strengthened.
The investigation into the alleged rape was opened by Berks County detectives earlier this year when the victim came forward to report it. If true, the perpetrator of this heinous crime must be found and prosecuted.
During the course of the investigation the victim disclosed that she informed Mercon through a written note because “she didn’t want to say it out loud.” The note was burned earlier this year. The Town and Country was one of the few media outlets to report that, according to court documents, the note was burned by Mercon and the victim. Again, that action implied a certain element of trust. It’s hard to get all that in a TV newscast. Omitting “and the victim” from news reports is depriving the viewer or reader of some pretty vital information that would calm fears and tempers.
But, trust aside, failing to report the incident is a lapse in the rules of the Upper Perkiomen School District and it is against state law – a misdemeanor of the third or lowest degree, but still a violation.
Upper Perkiomen Schools Superintendent Dr. Beth Yonson has done a respectable job during the incident with proper notification to the school community and, just as importantly, she has not rushed any of her decisions.
Some people view the incident as simple as black or white. We think, if true, it is a shade of gray.
If, and we emphasize if, Mercon is guilty of failing to report the incident, he will be punished and with the support of his family and supporters, he will stand.
Ronnie Polaneczky of the Philadelphia Daily News summed it up best when she recently wrote, “Everybody falls down. It’s how we get back up that determines whether we’re crippled by the fall or stronger for it.”
In the meantime, don’t rush to judgment.