Teacher's aide charged with institutional sexual assault
Jennifer Merklinger, 40, found herself at the center of a police investigation the moment school resumed after the holidays.
Police tell us on January 2nd, administrators in the Hamburg Area School District contacted them to investigate a possible relationship between the teacher's aide and a male student.
"Apparently they were doing administrative inquiry," said Hamburg Police Chief Pedro Rivera. "They received information that one of their employees had been involved with a student."
When administrators and police confronted Merklinger about the allegations, police say she admitted to having sexual contact with the 18-year-old student on multiple occasions. They say it happened between December 19th and the 23rd at both her home in Hamburg and his home in Shoemakersville.
Police say although that student is 18, Merklinger still broke the law.
"Any employee of a school, whether it be a teacher, teacher's aid, janitor, having intercourse or inappropriate conduct would fall under that section of the crime's code," said Rivera.
These allegations come just months after a teacher at Tulpehocken High School and a coach at Conrad Weiser were also charged with having sexual relationships with students. Chief Rivera says teachers and coaches need to be aware of the serious charges they could face for committing such a crime.
"I know a lot of the school districts, the superintendents are really establishing a policy and making the teachers aware of that statute that they may not have been aware of a couple years ago," said Rivera.
Merklinger turned herself in in Hamburg on Friday afternoon. She faces felony charges of institutional sexual assault.
Copyright 2014 WFMZ. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.