ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — A principal with Allegan Area Educational Services Agency has been arrested for criminal sexual conduct with two staff members.
Jonathon Eugene Garcia, principal at Hillside Learning and Behavior Center, was arraigned on Wednesday in the 57th District Court in Allegan on three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, three counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and five counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving two separate victims, according to a news release from the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department. He will be back in court on Feb. 11.
The investigation began on Monday after the superintendent’s office notified police of allegations of inappropriate contact between Garcia, 34, and staff members, the release said.
According to court records, two female employees said Garcia sexually assaulted them between September 2015 and January. They said he was forceful and put his hands on their private parts on numerous occasions.
One of those incidents happened at Brandon Elementary School in Martin, one of the employees said. She stated it began with sexually explicit language and that escalated until Garcia asked her to show him her private parts.
During a probable cause hearing, a detective said Garcia originally denied the allegations, but then on Feb. 1 admitted to sexual contact with the women.
Deputies say both victims are adults and that there is no indication that there was any misconduct involving students.
Garcia remained in jail on Wednesday evening.
He was immediately placed on administrative leave, according to a news release from Allegan Area Educational Service Agency.
“I’m saddened. I’m devastated. And I feel just terrible for employees who may have gone through an ordeal like this,” Mark Dobias, the superintendent of the AAESA, told 24 Hour News 8.
He said the agency would conduct its own investigation into what happened.
The release from AAESA went on to stay the following:
“In light of the nature of the allegations, one of our priorities has been and will continue to be ensuring full cooperation with law enforcement in every way possible. While this is a very sensitive situation for all concerned, we have complete trust in the professionalism of our law enforcement partners and confidence in the justice system. AAESA also has an obligation to conduct an internal investigation, which is underway. AAESA is also in the process of identifying a qualified interim administrator for the programs Principal Garcia supervised.
This is an extremely difficult situation for our school staff and our school community. As an organization, we take this matter very seriously. While our staff will continue to ensure that our students receive excellent academic services and support to enable their success, we strive to provide a supportive working environment for our valued employees.”
–24 Hour News 8’s Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.