Former Hilton elementary principal Kirk Ashton convicted of sexually abusing students

A jury Monday determined that former Hilton Central School District principal Kirk Ashton sexually abused 21 young boys on school grounds.

The number of victims in the criminal case made this one of Monroe County's worst cases of sexual abuse in recent memory, and the revelations that Ashton's actions had gone unreported for years in an elementary school angered parents.

The jury Monday convicted Ashton of 46 counts — eleven counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, 17 counts of course of sexual conduct against a child and 18 counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Jury deliberations began late Thursday.

Ashton, the principal at Northwood Elementary School between 2004 and April 2021, was suspended last spring after he was accused of sexually abusing students at the school, dating back to 2014. He was accused of the abuse of boys between 8 and 12 years old. He resigned months after the suspension.

Kirk Ashton
Kirk Ashton

The district is facing multiple lawsuits in state and federal court. The school district has claimed in some cases that Ashton, and not the district, should be responsible for any liability.

More than two dozen former students, all boys, testified at Ashton's trial this month. Some of them detailed how Ashton touched their private parts under their clothing on numerous occasions while in his office at the school. Often, he had the children sit on his lap during meetings in his office, the victims testified during the trial.

"Kirk Ashton targeted those who needed extra support and instead of providing a safe environment, he groomed these children," District Attorney Sandra Doorley said in a statement. "These victims showed incredible resiliency that we hope will benefit them in their continued journey of recovery."

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What led to arrest of Kirk Ashton

Ashton's arrest, which shocked district parents, teachers and others in the school, came about after Bivona Child Advocacy Center took its curriculum into the school, telling children about sexual abuse.

A short time later, police were alerted that Ashton may have molested a boy. Within days, that investigation grew from allegations of one abused student to criminal charges alleging Ashton had molested nine students on school grounds. In all, he was accused of sexually abusing 26 children in a 9-year-span at the school. The oldest victim is now in his 20s.

Ashton is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 23 by state Supreme Court Justice Alex Renzi.

Ashton "hand selected just boys, but after what we saw the last three weeks they were not just boys – they were brave boys who came into court and testified to their principal’s predatory behavior," Assistant District Attorney Sara Vanstrydonck said in a statement Monday. "I am in awe of the victims who had the strength and courage to face their abuser in court and are ultimately responsible for today’s conviction."

"Justice is a key step in the healing process for the victims, their families and the whole community," Bivona CEO Daniele Lyman-Torres said in a statement, noting that there is much more work to be done to ensure this does not continue to happen. "We all have the responsibility to keep children safe from abuse."

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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Kirk Ashton convicted of abusing Hilton elementary students