A 29-year-old teacher’s aide at Prairie Elementary School in the Elk Grove Unified School District has been arrested on suspicion of child molestation.
Eric Ernest Echols of Sacramento was arrested Friday following a two-month investigation of allegations that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with six children, who were 7 to 8 years old at the time of the incidents, according to a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department news release.
The incidents are alleged to have occurred between July 2015 and June 2016.
An employee reported the alleged misconduct to school administrators, and the district staff immediately removed Echols from the classroom, according to a school district news release. District officials said Echols was placed on paid administrative leave in July.
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The Elk Grove Unified School District issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying, “This matter is very concerning and we take all allegations of misconduct very seriously as the safety of our students is our top priority. When we receive complaints of employee misconduct, the school and district officials take swift and decisive action to remove the employee from the work site, cooperate fully with local law enforcement to investigate, and ensure that students are able to continue learning in a safe environment.”
The allegations were investigated by the Sheriff’s Department’s Child Abuse Bureau. The case was turned over to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and a warrant was issued for Echols’ arrest. Sheriff’s detectives, with assistance from the Elk Grove Police Department, arrested Echols at a relative’s Elk Grove home without incident, sheriff’s officials said.
Echols was arrested on an outstanding felony warrant for lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14 and child annoyance. He was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail and is being held in lieu of $900,000 bail. He is to be arraigned Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court.
School district officials said Echols was hired in August 2014 and also was a substitute teacher’s aide at other schools in the district. Detectives ask anyone with information regarding this or other incidents involving Echols to call the Sheriff’s Department at 916-874-5115 or Crime Alert at 916-443-4357. Tip information also may be left anonymously at www.sacsheriff.com, or by calling 916-874-8477.