Lawyer: Principal protected by law

GREENFIELD — A McCordsville principal charged with failing to report child abuse has asked a judge to throw out his case, noting the high school victim who says a teacher sexually assaulted him was 18 and doesn’t count as a child.

Scott Shipley, principal of Mt. Vernon Middle School, was charged in April with failure to report — a Class B misdemeanor — after he waited 17 days to notify police of rumors an employee was having a sexual relationship with a student, court records state.

Now, his attorney, John Tompkins of Indianapolis, has asked a judge to dismiss the case against Shipley, 43, arguing the reporting law doesn’t apply to his case because the victim was legally an adult. In addition, he cites a state law that protects a person who makes a report of sexual assault “from any civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be imposed because of such action.”

Prosecutors say Shipley, who has been employed by the Mt. Vernon School Corp. for 11 years and has not been suspended from his duties, 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.

Shipley first heard a rumor of Nuckols’ relationship with a teen on March 12, the Saturday that began the district’s two-week spring break. He didn’t disclose that information until March 29, the day after students returned from break.

Shipley told police “he was driving to Florida, had four children in the van, and he didn’t feel any students were in imminent danger,” when he first heard about the reports, according to court documents.

In his request, Tompkins cites Indiana law, which defines a child as a person younger than 18. Anyone who suspects a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect has a duty to immediately make a report to either the Department of Child Services or law enforcement under Indiana’s reporting law.

When Shipley heard the rumors of abuse, he knew the victim was 18, so the reporting law doesn’t apply in this case, Tompkins wrote.

“It is legally impossible for Shipley to have believed that a child was a victim, and therefore impossible for him to have violated the legal reporting requirements,” the motion states.

Tompkins also argued charging Shipley violates the spirit of a law meant to encourage people to report abuse; prosecuting Shipley could discourage people from reporting child abuse or neglect if they believed they could be punished for not acting quickly enough, Tompkins wrote.

Shipley was not arrested after charges were filed; officials instead issued an order for him to appear in court. A hearing is scheduled for June 30.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton declined to comment on the motion.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.