Hilton principal sexually abused students in school, during school hours, prosecutors say

Monroe County

GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — Prosecutors say Hilton elementary school principal Kirk Ashton sexually abused young male students inside the school building and during school hours.

Ashton, principal at Northwood Elementary School, is accused of sexually abusing at least nine students, with offenses dating back several years.

Ashton was arrested Wednesday night and is facing nine counts of endangering the welfare of a child, six counts of first degree sex abuse, and five counts of second degree sexual conduct against a child. Officials say more charges are possible if more victims come forward.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley and New York State Police Major Barry Chase said the incidents of alleged abuse took place inside the school and during school hours.

“Our investigation has shown that all the instances occurred in the school,” Maj. Chase said.

“We’re confident in saying that it happened during school hours,” Doorley said.

Ashton has been Northwood’s principal since 2004 and was placed on administrative leave last week, after New York State Police opened an investigation into the district.

“The school administration was advised shortly after the investigation started, during school break so Mr. Ashton did not return to school after the allegations were reported, Maj. Chase said. “I’ve been informed that he’s been a principal there for 17 years. So just based on other investigations we’ve had over the years we can only guess that it’s probably gone back that far. We don’t know that for a fact at this point, but obviously we’re going to look into that as much as possible. On these charges, we’re thinking back toward 2017 so the ages of the victims are between 8 and 12 years old.”

Ashton was arraigned Wednesday night in Greece Town Court and is currently being held at the Monroe County Jail on on $500,000 cash bail, $1 million bond. Eight orders of protection were issued Wednesday.

“I would say to any parents out there, that had concerns, to please call us and we’ll run those leads down,” Maj. Chase said. “This is an ongoing investigation and it will take quite some time to unravel.”

Doorley said Ashton is scheduled to return to court on April 20 for a preliminary hearing, but added that the prosecution intends to present this case to a grand jury. Doorely added Ashton has previously been convicted of a felony DWI.

“These are only allegations at this point, there’s a lot more to do with this investigation, and if any parent is listening right now, have a conversation with your child,” Doorley said. “There could be more victims out there and if there are we urge you to contact our office and the New York State Police, and more importantly Bivona Child Advocacy Center.”

“This guy is charged with protecting, guiding and mentoring these children, and the principal of the school, is the leader of that school, and for this guy to be in charge of the children, their welfare, their protection,” Greece Police Chief Drew Forsythe said. “We drop our kids off every day to this guy, and he does this — allegedly. It’s the worst thing that could possibly happen in my mind.

“Making matters worse, he chose one of our most sacred institutions; our schools, to carry out these disgusting acts,” Chief Forsythe said. “These courageous little men, in the face of fear and uncertainty showed their bravery in coming forward to tell their story. Those of us in law enforcement are now charged with ensuring justice is done for those children and their families.”

Leading the prosecution of this case will be Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Sara Van Strydonck, who told the community to not buy into rumors shared on the internet and social media.

“The information that the public needs to know is coming from the people that are up here,” Van Strydonck said. “What we know about children who are sexually abused, 90% or more are sexually abused by someone they know, love, or trust. So we teach kids about stranger danger, about how to be safe walking across the street. We need to, as a community, teach kids about body safety, and what that means. Not once, not twice, but consistently and age appropriately.”

Mugshot of Kirk Ashton (left), and Ashton being escorted out of court by New York State Police on April 14, 2021.

Van Strydonck said there are ways for concerned parents to discuss these matters with their children.

“Has anybody at school made you feel uncomfortable?” Van Strydonck said. “Is there anything at school that happens that you didn’t like? There are many different ways to ask and the most important thing is kids are looking at your reaction.”

Last August, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that extended the window of lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act through August 14, 2021. The CVA allows victim to file abuse lawsuits, regardless of when or how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

The timeline of accusations and the correlating charges, from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, is as follows:

Ashton was charged with six counts of Sexual Abuse in the 1st Degree for incident(s) that occurred 433 North Greece Road during the following time frames:

  • On or about and between December 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
  • On or about and between December 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
  • On or about and between January 1, 2021 and February 28, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2019 and March 13, 2020 on two separate occasions.

Ashton was also charged with five counts of Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child in the 2nd Degree for incident(s) that occurred 433 North Greece Road during the following time frames:

  • On or about and between September 1, 2019 and March 26, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2017 and March 13, 2020.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2020 and March 26, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2017 and March 26, 2021.
  • On or about and between January 1, 2018 and March 13, 2020.

Ashton was also charged with nine counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child for incident(s) that occurred 433 North Greece Road during the following time frames:

  • On or about and between January 1, 2021 and March 26, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2019 and March 26, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
  • On or about and between December 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2017 and March 13, 2020.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2020 and March 26, 2021.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2019 and March 13, 2020.
  • On or about and between September 1, 2017 and March 26, 2021.

Watch the full press conference

Hilton Superintendent Casey Kosiorek sent the following note to parents in the district Wednesday evening:

Dear Northwood Parents and Guardians:

On April 8, I communicated with you about the placement of Principal Kirk Ashton on administrative leave pending an investigation. I also promised to provide you with additional information when it became available.

Late today, the New York State Police informed me that, following an investigation, Mr. Ashton is being charged with multiple counts of inappropriate sexual conduct with male students.

I want to assure you that the District has been cooperating fully with the State Police. Our primary concern is for our students. Our District crisis team has formulated a plan to support students and staff, and counselors are available for students throughout the day. In addition, the District has been working closely with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center throughout the investigation and will continue to do so.

With that in mind, if you have concerns about your child, please contact Bivona at 935-7800 or visit Bivonacac.org for a checklist for what to do if you suspect child abuse, who to call, common questions, and guidelines for age-appropriate conversations.  If a child makes a disclosure, or you suspect that something has occurred, please contact the New York State Police at 585-279-0144.

I will continue to communicate any new developments with you, as I am able.

Sincerely,

Casey Kosiorek, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Hilton School District officials released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“On April 8, the District informed staff and Northwood Elementary School parents about the placement of Principal Kirk Ashton on administrative leave pending an investigation.  Late today, the New York State Police informed the District that, following an investigation, Mr. Ashton is being charged with multiple counts of inappropriate sexual conduct with male students. 

The School District has been cooperating fully with the State Police. Our primary concern is for our students. Our District crisis team has formulated a plan to support students and staff, and counselors are available for students throughout the day. In addition, the District has been working closely with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center throughout the investigation and will continue to do so.

The District commends the individuals who initially brought this information forward and thanks the New York State Police for their prompt and thorough response.

Statement from Hillside Family of Agencies, a former employer of Kirk Ashton

“Hillside is committed to the safety and wellbeing of every child, and any suspected or actual offense against a youth is not tolerated. We are prepared to cooperate fully with authorities as needed with regard to this reported incident.”


This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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