MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - A final charge against the McCracken County High School principal was dropped on Friday, April 5.
McCracken County Attorney Sam Clymer dismissed the failing to report abuse charge against Principal Michael Ceglinski.
In February, the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office held a joint news conference and announced Ceglinski and the director of pupil personnel were charged. Ceglinski with official misconduct and failing to report abuse, and the director with official misconduct.
Those charges were later dropped except for the failing to report abuse charge against Ceglinski.
By Kentucky law, a person can be charged with failure to report child abuse if that person “knew that a child had been sexually abused by a person in a position of authority of special trust or that the defendant had reasonable cause to believe that a child had been sexually abused by a person in a position of authority or special trust.” Also, if the defendant had “knowledge or reasonable grounds to believe that a child had been sexually abused by a person in a position of authority or special trust, defendant intentionally failed to report such sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities, the Cabinet for Health and Family Service, the County Attorney’s Office or the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.”
An abused child, by Kentucky law, is defined as “a child whose health or wellness is harmed or threatened with harm when a person in a position of authority or special trust commits an act of sexual abuse upon a child.”
The law defines sexual abuse as “includes but not necessarily limited to any contacts or interactions in which person in a position of authority or special trust, uses the child for the purposes of the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator.”
Clymer said he believed no evidence supported the charge that Ceglinski witnessed any form of abuse.
“For that reason he could not ‘know’ a child had been sexually abused under the definition,” Clymer said.
He said it had to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that Ceglinski either knew that a child had been sexually abused by seeing it happen or had conducted an investigation that gave him reasonable cause to believe that a child had been sexually abused.
Next, Clymer said, it had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that despite this knowledge or reasonable grounds to believe sexual abuse occurred, Ceglinski intentionally failed to report it.
He said the theory of the charge was that Ceglinski had “reasonable grounds to believe” a child was sexually abused and intentionally failed to report it.
Clymer said he spent three days researching the legal standards on the charge and applying the evidentiary facts to them.
“Unfortunately, I’m confident that this prosecutor did not research the definitions of the key terms in the statute prior to applying it to the facts,” he said. “The key terms that are defined in the Juvenile code and by case law are ‘knows,' ‘reasonable cause to know,’ ‘abused’ and for the purposes of this allegation, ‘sexual abuse.’
He said the also believed the prosecutor was acting under the incorrect belief that all of the acts the detectives learned that Parks allegedly did regarding the child were communicated to Ceglinski during the first meeting he had with the child on January 24. However, Clymer said, a careful review of evidence showed that was not the case.
According to the Clymer, he believes the sheriff’s detectives did nothing wrong in handling the matter. He said they sought guidance from the criminal court prosecutor on the matter, which is routine.
“My interpretation of the evidentiary facts is that Ceglinski was in the midst of coordinating an investigation into what was going on in this matter,” he said. “This investigation is required to order to formulate reasonable grounds to believe a child had been sexually abused. In this case, Ceglinski was charged before the investigation could be completed.”
While the charges were dismissed, Clymer said Ceglinski did not handle the matter correctly.
“Forgetting to follow up on his investigation was by no means conscientious on his part and could even be argued negligent,” he said. “However, what it is not is criminal under Kentucky law.”
In a news conference in February, the McCracken County Sheriff’s Office reported that four incidents involving students and faculty at the high school were under investigation.
They say the investigation involved three school employees and an 18-year-old former student. They said the alleged incidents involving each individual was independent of one another.