School is supposed to be a safe place for kids to grow and learn, but Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies say at least six second graders at Prairie Elementary School have learned a devastating lesson from their teacher's aide -- not everyone in authority can be trusted.
"It's disturbing," said parent Craig Jordan. "Glad that he was caught and removed, you know."
Jordan is a parent of a current Prairie second grader, and one of many shocked to learn Eric Echols has been arrested for touching six of the little girls in his class inappropriately.
Echols' Facebook page—where he uses the last name Gollas—says he started working in the Elk Grove Unified School District back in 2011. It also says he married his longtime girlfriend just four months ago.
According to deputies, a brave child helped put the newlywed behind bars.
"A child had reported it to one of the staff," said Sgt. Tony Turnbull with Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.
The investigation triggered by that report led to Echols being charged with one count of child annoyance, or sexually suggestive conduct with a child, and nine counts of lewd and lascivious behavior between his six alleged victims.
"The intent is to obviously gratify any kind of lust or passion or sexual arousal for the adult or the child," Turnbull said.
Victims Coming Forward
While at Prairie Elementary, FOX40 talked with a mother and daughter, who didn't want to speak on camera, about the girl's experience with Echols.
The now-third grader said "Mr. Eric" would rub her upper thighs and touch her rear while giving bear hugs. She described other girls in class being forced to sit on his lap.
Another family, the Richmonds, got the letter all parents received from the school about Echols' arrest. Now, Carrica Richmond plans to have another talk with her kids about the dangers in the world.
"Anything that happens just come to us and talk to us, and we are there and available for them," she said.
Echols is being held at the Sacramento county jail in lieu of $900,000 bail for what deputies say happened between June of 2015 and July of this year.
Echols declined FOX40's request for an interview, and calls to his relatives were not returned.
The Elk Grove Unified School District was notified in July and placed Echols on administrative leave, telling FOX40 that "the safety of our students is our top priority."
In addition to being a teacher's aide, the 29-year-old Echols has also served as a district-wide substitute teacher.
If you have any concerns tied to the claims being made against Echols, Sacramento county sheriff's deputies want to hear from you.