Greece, New York: Last night an elementary school principle made his first appearance in Greece Town Court where he was arraigned on charges related to the sexual abuse of at least 9 students. Investigators are concerned that there are likely more victims due to the length of time he worked with children.
51-year-old Kirk S. Ashton entered a plea of not guilty to the charges against him and was booked into the Monroe County Jail where he remains in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail or $1 million bond.
At this time the charges against Ashton are six counts of first-degree sexual abuse, five counts of second-degree course of sexual conduct, and nine counts of endangering the welfare of a child. These events are said to have occurred between September 1, 2019 and March 26, 2021. The victims are reported to be all boys between the ages of 8 and 12-years-old.
The charges stem from contact that occurred on the school campus during school hours.
Ashton had served as the principal for Northwood Elementary School in the Hilton Central School District for 17 years and before that, worked as a teacher at the Vollmeer and Leary Elementary Schools in the Rush-Henrietta Central School District from 1996-2004, so investigators are anticipating more victims.
Both officers as the district attorney's office acknowledge that these charges cover only "a few years," and there exists "the potential for many more" victims, according to Assistant District Attorney Sara VanStrydonck.
They are asking that anyone that believes they may have been a victim or has information about this case to contact the New York State Police hotline at (585) 398-4100 or the Bivona Child Advocacy Center at (585) 935-7800.
During a press conference this morning Major Barry Chase with the New York State Police credited the work Bivona has been doing in the Hilton Central School District with likely being the reason the investigation into Ashton was started.
Bivona's educational program concluded on March 26, the last day before the spring break, and also the same day that a call was placed to the New York State Police Child Abuse Hotline.
An investigation was immediately launched and on April 8 the school district was notified of an investigation into Ashton. In response, the district placed him on administrative leave, "pending an investigation into information brought forward to the district."
Greece Police Chief Drew Forsythe did not shy from answering a question about the level of betrayal felt by a community that trusted Ashton with their children day in and day out.
"This guy is charged with protecting guiding and mentoring these children. ... We drop our kids off every day to this guy and he does this? Allegedly? It's the worst thing that can possibly happen in my mind."
Forsythe continued by reading from a prepared statement saying, "Using his position of power and authority, this predator preyed on these little boys. This guy, who is charged with guiding, mentoring, and protecting our children, used their innocence and trust to violate them."
He commended those that have come forward calling them, "courageous little men" who "in the face of fear and uncertainty show their bravery and came forward to tell their story."
The investigation remains ongoing and "extremely active."
What remains unknown at this time is how Ashton remained employed with the school district despite a felony conviction for driving while intoxicated in 2007. When asked about that during the press conference, the DA's office said that question may be better suited for the school district.
His preliminary hearing has been scheduled for April 20, 2021.