Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)

School principal charged with sexually abusing 9 students

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HILTON, N.Y. » A Rochester-area elementary school principal has been charged with sexually abusing nine students during school hours in a case that prosecutor­s say goes back at least four years.

Kirk Ashton, the longtime principal of Northwood Elementary School in Hilton, was arraigned Wednesday night on multiple counts of first-degree sexual abuse, second-degree course of sexual conduct and endangerin­g the welfare of a child.

The victims, all boys, were between 8 and 12 years old, prosecutor­s said at a news conference Thursday.

Ashton pleaded not guilty in Greece Town Court, and bail was set at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.

“This predator preyed on these little boys,” Greece Police Chief Andrew Forsythe said. “This guy who is charged with protecting, guiding and mentoring these children used their innocence and trust to violate them. Making matters worse, he chose one of our most sacred institutio­ns, our schools, to carry out these disgusting acts.”

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley declined to detail Ashton’s alleged actions but said he is accused of engaging in sexual conduct multiple times with victims during the school day up until March 26, when state police were alerted following a call to the state Child Abuse Hotline.

The charges date to 2017. A sexual abuse educationa­l program presented by the Bivona Child Advocacy Center just before the reports likely led alleged victims to come forward, state police Major Barry Chase said. The investigat­ion began over spring break so Ashton never returned to school.

Authoritie­s urged other potential victims to come forward.

“Have a conversati­on with your child. There could be more victims out there,” Doorley said.

Ashton, who had been at the school since 2004, was placed on administra­tive leave on April 8.

Assistant District Attorney Sara VanStrydon­ck said the investigat­ion is “ongoing and extremely active.”

“Any time there are allegation­s of kids being hurt it’s upsetting to the community and it should be,” VanStrydon­ck said.

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