A Kentucky sheriff is conducting four separate investigations into sex crimes committed against or by students at a local high school, and he’s already hauled in and charged school officials who got in his way.
McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter held a news conference on Wednesday to update the public about the situation and announce criminal charges against two top school officials, WPSD reports.
Deputies arrested McCracken High School Principal Michael Ceglinski and Director of Pupil Personnel Brian Bowland and charged both with official misconduct for allegedly failing to report at least two of the alleged sex crimes at the school. Ceglinski also faces a second charge of failing to report abuse, according to the news site.
“It would appear at this time that each and every one (of the cases) are independent of one another,” Carter said at the news conference, according to KFVS.
Capt. Ryan Norman outlined the four investigations, the first beginning on Jan. 17 involving former athletic director Kris Garrett. Detectives are investigating allegations Garrett had inappropriate contact with current and former students by sending and or receiving naked pictures of students.
“That investigation remains open and is ongoing as we’re still processing digital evidence as well as consulting with prosecutors,” Norman said.
Garrett submitted his resignation in February because of “personal health concerns” and a desire to “spend more time with family,” WPSD reports.
A second investigation started a few weeks later, on Feb. 5, and it centers on a teacher who is also accused of inappropriate contact with current and former McCracken County High School students.
“At this time, this teacher that is alleged to have had inappropriate communication with students is not in a position to have contact with students at the school and that will remain in effect until the outcome of this investigation is determined,” Norman said.
The third investigation is focused on John Parks, a volunteer fishing coach at the school who is also accused of inappropriate contact and communications with students. Norman explained the school did not report the allegations, which sheriff’s officials learned about on Feb. 14.
Norman said the victim’s parents notified school officials about the alleged abuse three weeks before going to the sheriff office, WPSD reports.
Deputies reviewed electronic communications between the 56-year-old and the victim, then executed a search warrant on Norman’s car and home, where they allegedly found a photo of a second victim who was a minor at the time it was taken and unaware it existed.
Deputies arrested and charged Parks with first degree sexual abuse and possession of child pornography on the same day parents went to the Sheriff’s office, WPSD reports.
Investigators contend school officials also neglected to report another alleged sex crime involving student Prince Kumar Joshi, an 18-year-old who allegedly had sexual contact with a minor and possessed illegal sexual images of the student.
“During the investigation, detectives interviewed faculty members who reportedly said they were told about the case a few days earlier,” KFVS reports. “Detectives say that members of the school faculty and staff allegedly conducted an internal investigation into the case without reporting (the allegations) to law enforcement.”
Detectives started investigating Joshi on Feb. 17 and charged him with using an electronic device to record and possess illegal sexual images of a minor two days later.
Parents and students at the high school told WPSD the investigations have roiled the small community, and many are shocked by the allegations.
“We hate it for everyone who is not involved, and it does hurt a little,” senior Conner Kelly said. “It was unexpected, yeah, just because … you just … think everyone is good around here, and you just hate to see it.”
“Wow, you know small-town school you would think that we’d have a little better upstanding you know in the world,” said Donald Pinaire, father of a sophomore at the school. “We send our kids to these schools with people that we hope to trust.”
Pinaire said he believes school officials and teachers should be held to a high standard, and he thinks the public deserves to know the full scope of the situation as the cases progress.
“The facts need to be found, the facts need to come out and let people know about them, you know, we tend to make hasty decisions when we panic or we hear bad news,” he said.
School officials told the media Ceglinski was suspended pending the outcome of his criminal charges, while the status of Bowland’s employment remains unknown. Ceglinski’s attorney has also lashed out at the sheriff’s department.
“Principal Michael Ceglinski has been suspended with pay from his duties at McCracken County High School after being charged with two misdemeanors alleging he did not report abuse of his students,” attorney Jeremy Ian Smith wrote in a prepared statement. “These charges are nonsensical and illogical. Principal Ceglinski has never had any motive to fail to report the abuse of his students.”
Smith wrote Ceglinski looks forward to a trial where he will be “judged by the facts,” and “rumor and innuendo are not evidence.”
McCracken County Schools Superintendent Brian Harper attended the press conference along with local law enforcement, and he told the media the sheriff’s office and school district plan to co-host staff training next week.
“Our desire is to remain transparent to the community and most especially the parents and guardians of students pertaining to these issues while ensuring that the integrity of each investigation is not compromised,” Carter said.