HILTON, N.Y. (AP) — A former elementary school principal was sentenced Wednesday to 63 years in prison for sexually abusing 21 students over several years.

Kirk Ashton, 52, was the top administrator at Northwood Elementary School in Hilton from 2004 to April 2021.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley said that between 2014 and last year Ashton targeted young boys who needed extra support and “groomed and abused” them in his office.

Parents of several victims spoke at the sentencing, some describing their children's mental anguish while living with a secret they kept for years.

“Instead of signing our boys up for more activities, we are all signing them up for more counseling,” one mother said in a statement, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.

Ashton did not address the packed courtroom.

He was found guilty of sexual abuse and child endangerment last month. Under state law, Ashton will serve 20 years of the 63-year sentence, Assistant District Attorney Sara Vanstrydonck said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.