HILTON, N.Y. (WROC) — The Hilton School Board met Tuesday evening and the topic on most parents’ minds was the guilty verdict in the Kirk Ashton case. The former principal of Northwood Elementary was found guilty of 46 of 50 counts of sexual abuse on Monday.
The parents who spoke to News 8 said they want answers from the board on who knew what — and when — about Kirk Ashton, and how this went on for 17 years with no one coming forward.
“What was done to these children is disgusting,” said Hilton parent Rick Nawrocki.
The superintendent only read a prepared statement, saying in sum, they are grateful for the verdict and humbled by the courage of the students who came forward. They told parents they will be enforcing a culture of reporting going forward to ensure the safety of students.
That reporting said Daniele Lyman-Torres with the Bivona Child Advocacy Center, is the law.
“When it comes to professionals — who are mandated reporters — they receive specific training and understand their obligation to mandate and report abuse of any kind,” said Torres.
Bivona has been working with the victims since the Ashton case broke last year.
Nawrocki said there is a complete lack of transparency from the board on all of this, and more needs to be said. He says the superintendent and most of the board need to resign immediately.
“We wanted answers tonight. We wanted to know who was behind this, who knew what,” said Nawrocki.
As soon as the Ashton case came to light last year, Kelli Wright decided to homeschool her children. She spoke tonight saying she is ‘done’ with the silence from the board.
“I feel like every email that gets sent out is just your generic cookie-cutter email that we’re just supposed to be okay with,” said Wright.
Wright wants an investigation from an outside agency now — to determine who else was responsible for 17 years of abuse at the hands of Ashton.
“There were a lot of people who knew and it was an extremely toxic environment,” she said.
Hilton School District statement
The District is grateful for the verdicts that were handed down against a former principal and humbled by the courage and commitment of all who were victimized, including present and former students and their families. I again want to thank the District Attorney’s office, New York State Police, Greece Police and counselors at the Bivona Child Advocacy Center for their sensitive and determined hard work to bring the facts to light in the pursuit of justice
Testimony in the trial raises issues that we will address – and in fact, are already doing so through our Road to Recovery Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Action Plan. One of the focal points of our plan is to reinforce a culture of reporting, with a goal of preventing, recognizing, and responding to inappropriate and harmful behaviors. Specifically, we are taking steps to empower staff to support each other and to take the essential steps needed to keep our students safe. We have a legal obligation to ensure mandated reporting happens and take this obligation very seriously. As part of our plan, we will be assessing additional avenues for protecting our students. We have already put our entire staff through mandatory Mandated Reporter training and additional training on child sexual abuse and prevention. These efforts will be ongoing.
In the weeks to come, we will review recent information that came to light during the trial and take appropriate action where and when we can. We want to be as transparent as possible but also need to work within the legal obligations to all parties involving specific personnel.