Principal of Kentucky high school charged after not reporting abuse of students, police say

McCracken County High School

Michael Ceglinski, principal of McCracken County High School in Western Kentucky, has been suspended with pay and charged with two misdemeanors after allegedly not reporting abuse of his students, according to court records.

Since the beginning of the year, three high school employees have been investigated by the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office, which charged Ceglinski Wednesday.

John Parks, the bass fishing coach at the high school, was charged with first-degree sexual abuse on Feb. 14, according to court documents.

Parks’ arrest citation states he allegedly grabbed a male juvenile’s butt and inner thigh multiple times “for sexual gratification.” He was also charged with possession of child pornography of a second minor, court records show.

On Feb. 6, McCracken County activities director Kris Garrett resigned from his position; Garrett may have inappropriately contacted a student or multiple students using an electronic device, according to the sheriff’s department.

Garrett was barred from school property Jan. 15 after the sheriff’s department began its inquiry, according to The Paducah Sun. He was hired as activities director prior to the school’s opening in 2013.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year.

A third employee is also under investigation for inappropriate communication, according to the sheriff’s office. That person’s name has not been released.

In addition, an 18-year-old student, Pricekumar Joshi, was charged this week with inappropriate sexual contact and possessing illegal sexual images of an underage student, the sheriff’s office said.

Ceglinski was charged with the misdemeanors for allegedly not reporting alleged abuse. He allegedly knew about two of the incidents and did not tell law enforcement, which is required under state law, police said. The school took no administrative action in one of the incidents and little action in another.

“We have a duty to protect all citizens and children can be the most vulnerable citizens,” Sheriff Matt Carter said in a press conference Wednesday. “It is imperative that we always ensure they remain safe and hold those that do harm accountable, most especially those that are placed in positions of authority.”

Jeremy Smith, Ceglinski’s lawyer, told WKMS the charges are “nonsensical” and “illogical.”

“Principal Ceglinski cooperated with the investigation and looks forward to trial where rumor and innuendo are not evidence,” Smith said in a statement.

In an interview with WPSD Tuesday, McCracken Superintendent Brian Harper apologized to parents.

“They should expect us to keep everyone safe, and that’s what we’re supposed to do. By no means should they feel (concerned for their children’s safety), and I’m sorry some of them probably are at this point, just because of everything that is going on. It is my job to get it cleaned up, and that’s what I plan on doing. I apologize to those parents, and I apologize to those students,” Harper said.

Harper said during Wednesday’s press conference the school will train all teachers Tuesday on reporting and handling sexual misconduct.

Ceglinski has been the principal of McCracken County High since its inception in 2013, when it formed with the consolidations of Reidland, Heath and Lone Oak high schools.

Mike Stunson covers breaking news and real-time news for the Lexington Herald-Leader and He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter.