Prosecutors: Principal waited to report sex-crime rumors

FORTVILLE — A Mt. Vernon Schools principal broke the law when he waited 17 days to report rumors that an employee sent naked photos of herself to students, prosecutors say.

Scott Shipley, principal at Mt. Vernon Middle School, heard rumors on the first Saturday of the district’s two-week spring break, but told police “he was driving to Florida, had four children in the van, and he didn’t feel any students were in imminent danger,” according to court documents charging Shipley with a Class B misdemeanor for failure to report.

Investigators say the 43-year-old McCordsville educator didn’t do enough to alert police to the possibility a teacher’s aide at the middle school — later identified as Kisha Nuckols, who now faces four felony charges — was involved in a sexual relationship with several high school boys.

Wednesday, prosecutors filed a criminal charge against Shipley, who has been with the district for 11 years. Prosecutors have not asked for an arrest warrant for Shipley, who will instead be summoned to court May 18 for a hearing.

Meanwhile, district officials declined to say whether Shipley will remain employed by the district or be disciplined as the case plays out in court, citing personnel privacy policies.

In a written statement released by the district after Nuckols was charged, Shane Robbins, superintendent of Mt. Vernon schools, said he was reviewing the timeline surrounding the allegations “and will discipline the involved staff members accordingly.”

Police began looking into Shipley’s actions while investigating Nuckols, a Fortville mother who was charged April 1 with child seduction and dissemination of matters harmful to minors after two Mt. Vernon High School students told police they met her outside of school for sex on separate occasions, according to court documents.

Nuckols, who remains in the Hancock County Jail on a $20,000 cash bond, was working as a teacher’s aide at Mt. Vernon Middle School — under Shipley’s supervision — when the allegations were made. She had previously worked as a substitute teacher at Mt. Vernon High School.

Investigators say an employee alerted Shipley on March 12 — the first Saturday of the district’s two-week spring break — after hearing rumors from a student who heard Nuckols was sending naked pictures to male students, court document state.

Shipley told police he was driving to Florida with his family when he received the call on his cellphone, court documents state. Shipley told police he did not believe students were in danger because school was not in session. Additionally, he said the information he’d heard was third- or fourth-hand, and he had no way to determine if it was true, court documents state.

Students returned to class on March 28.

On March 29, Shipley told Mt. Vernon High School assistant principal Derek Shelton about the rumor Nuckols had sent inappropriate messages to a student, court documents state.

By that afternoon, Shelton had identified a student who admitted to exchanging sexual messages with Nuckols and engaging in a sex act with her, court documents state. Later that evening, Shelton contacted police.

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said state statutes are clear that anyone who has reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected must report those suspicions immediately to police.

Even if the information Shipley heard was a rumor or a third-hand account of what might have happened, it needed to be reported to police, Eaton said.

“You don’t have to know,” Eaton said. “All he had to have was a reason to believe something bad had happened.”

Pull Quote

“You don’t have to know. All (Scott Shipley) had to have was a reason to believe something bad had happened.”

– Prosecutor Brent Eaton, on a principal’s alleged failure to immediately report allegations of a student’s sexual assault.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.