WXXI AM News

Prevention program played key role in exposing alleged abuse at Hilton school

Apr 20, 2021

Credit freeimages.com/Aron Kremer

It was a call to a hotline that triggered an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of nine students at Northwood Elementary School in Hilton.

"This child indicated that he was empowered and he found a safe adult, and the safe adult took it from there," said Stefanie Szwejbka, manager of community education at Bivona Child Advocacy Center.

The school's principal, Kirk Ashton, has been charged with 11 felony counts, including first-degree sexual abuse and sexual conduct against a child.

Prosecutors say the alleged abuse took place over several years, from 2017 to March 2021.

The hotline call took place on March 26, not long after students at the school received training on child abuse prevention.

Szwejbka said Bivona currently provides the training to eight school districts in Monroe County through a partnership with BOCES. The program is available to any district within the county. There are classes for both school staff members and students.

The training is based on a nationally recognized, research-based program from the Monique Burr Foundation.

"(It) uses trauma-informed language that we know is so important for students," Szwejbka said.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear an interview with Szwejbka.

For more information or to register for prevention education training, email sszwejbka@BivonaCAC.org or call (585) 935-7822.

Deb Rosen, executive director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center, shares strategies for talking with children about sexual abuse and how parents and other adults can identify predatory behaviors. Video by WXXI photojournalist Max Schulte.