Upper Perkiomen High School teacher Frank Mercon has been charged with failure to report suspected child abuse after he was told in the fall of 2011 that a student had been a victim of date rape. The student was 17 when she wrote a note to Mercon describing what happened when she was 15 years-old at the Penn State Berks campus. Mercon told her that he did not have to report the incident, but he was wrong: certain individuals (including teachers) are guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree if they fail to report suspected child abuse. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said, “He had a mandatory obligation and knew or should have known about that obligation but instead deliberately concealed the note.” At the very least, Mercon was obligated to report the suspected abuse to his immediate supervisor or the principal of the school.
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse case, lawmakers in Harrisburg have passed a law mandating in-depth training for teachers on reporting sexual abuse. The law will go into effect this December, and teachers and school employees will be required to have a minimum of three hours of training on the subject every five years. Anyone with questions about reporting obligations should contact a lawyer to discuss the facts of his or her case to avoid criminal prosecution.