A Bethesda, MD high school teacher and rowing coach has been arrested on several counts of sexual abuse after a former student came forth to claim a sexual relationship between the two.
The Sexual Abuse Allegations
Kirk Shipley, 47, was arrested by detectives with D.C. Police's Youth and Family Services Division in August 2021 on charges of first- and second-degree child sexual abuse of a secondary education student. The student claims that she and Shipley began exchanging text messages and talking on the phone in 2016 but that the relationship wasn't sexual in nature until 2018 when she was an 18-year-old senior.
According to the report she filed with Washington, DC police, the contact included text messages and telephone calls of a sexual nature, the exchange of explicit videos and photographs, and multiple instances of oral sex over the course of several weeks. Additionally, the victim said that Shipley gave her a vibrator as a graduation present.
A Bit of Background
Shipley was hired by the Montgomery County Public Schools in 2001 as a geography and history teacher. The next year, he began coaching the Whitman community crew team. Although not officially affiliated with the school, the rowing organization had a number of members who were Walt Whitman High School students, including the complainant in this case.
In June 2021, Whitman Crew's board of directors placed Shipley on administrative leave pending an independent investigation, stemming from an unrelated claim about Shipley's conduct as a coach as well as from rumors of the sexual relationship with the student.
Later, the organization learned that Shipley was under investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a non-profit that supports current and former athletes who have been victimized by sexual abuse. As a member of U.S. Rowing, the crew team is obliged to obey the policies of SafeSport, which gives it exclusive jurisdiction over allegations of sexual abuse and the process by which those allegations are investigated.
After the Arrest
After the charges had been filed against Shipley, the Whitman Crew board announced in a letter to the community that the team “had severed all ties with him.” In addition, they suspended all operations for Fall 2021 in order to focus on “providing resources to our athletes, healing our community, and cooperating with the investigation.”
Once news of the arrest had broken, another student came forward with allegations against the coach and social studies teacher. She told police that she and Shipley had entered into a sexual relationship in June 2013, just after she had graduated from high school, that lasted until she was a junior in college. This second accuser described interactions that were similar to those of the first student: dozens of sexually explicit videos, photographs, and text messages. She, too, received a vibrator as a graduation gift.
These Charges Are Among the Most Serious
Allegations of sexual misconduct are taken very seriously by schools, athletic organizations, and of course, by prosecutors. Yet there are numerous mitigating factors that have a bearing on these types of situations—information beyond what the black-and-white news headlines and subjective blog posts convey. Each allegation of sexual abuse or misconduct must be considered carefully by those with the power to mete out justice. For that reason, anyone accused of such offenses requires the expert help of an attorney who specializes in cases of this nature, an attorney like Joseph D. Lento. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.