Posted 11:24 PM 1/24/2013 : Students weigh in on Air Academy High School teacher's arrest, accused of sexual assault
Students at Air Academy High School are weighing in on the arrest of Bryan Paul Mertz, a science teacher at the school and a former lecturer at UCCS.
40-year-old Mertz was arrested Wednesday night at his home after police interviewed an alleged victim; they say someone tipped off a school resource officer saying Mertz allegedly had sexual contact with a minor. Mertz is facing felony charges of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.
News 5 talked with a current student in Mertz's class at Air Academy High; she wanted to remain anonymous but says Mertz acted more like a kid than a teacher. She said he would frequently gossip about students and pick favorites, and hung out more with the kids than the school staff. "He would have study sessions outside of school where he would meet with us at places like Panera or Chipotle," she told News 5's Jacqui Heinrich in an interview. She says although Mertz was one of her favorite teachers for his ability to engage with students, his behavior was sometimes borderline and she's not surprised at the allegations. "I was shocked at first but I guess knowing the way he can be with the students it wasn't a complete shock," she said.
District officials wouldn't say whetehr Mertz had been accused of anything in the past, but as of Thursday afternoon he was released from his duties as a science teacher at the high school. Nanette Anderson, a spokesperson for the district, says parents, students, and other students can rest assured that administrators are taking the situation seriously and working to protect the student body."We can assure them that he will not be at Air Academy High School or any district 20 facility or school," Anderson said. When News 5's Jacqui Heinrich asked if she meant indefinitely or pending an investigation, Anderson replied, "Indefinitely."
Mertz was a science teacher at Air Academy High School for the past twelve years. District officials say employees are required to pass a background check before working at the district and Mertz did undergo that process, but now police are asking for the community's help in finding other potential victims. Police say because of Mertz's role as a teacher, he would have been in frequent contact with minors and there is concern that he may have violated other children.
If you have any information you're asked to call police immediately at 444-7000.
In the meantime, school officials are working to find a substitute teacher to take over Mertz's teaching responsibilities.