GREENFIELD — A principal accused of failing to report alleged sexual abuse of a student told a judge he waited to contact police only because he knew the victim was 18 — not a child.
Scott Shipley, 43, 9261 N. Water Bay Circle, McCordsville, appeared in court Friday for the first time since being charged in April with failure to report, a Class B misdemeanor. After having petitioned the judge to toss out the case, the Mt. Vernon Middle School principal testified a colleague told him at least twice the victim was 18, a legal adult.
State law requires any adult who suspects a child has been abused to make a report to police.
Hancock County Superior Court 2 Judge Dan Marshall took the motion to drop the case under advisement Friday; the case remains open and set for trial in December.
Prosecutors say Shipley didn’t do enough to alert police of the rumor an employee was involved in a sexual relationship with a high school student. The teacher’s aide accused of the assault, Kisha Nuckols, 38, 321 E. Delaware St., Fortville, faces four felony charges.
In June, Shipley’s attorney, John Tompkins of Indianapolis, asked a judge to dismiss the case against Shipley, arguing the child abuse reporting law doesn’t apply.
“Child abuse can’t happen to an 18-year-old,” Tompkins said in court Friday.
Investigators began looking into Shipley’s actions while investigating Nuckols, a Fortville mother who was charged in April with child seduction and dissemination of matters harmful to minors, according to court documents.
Nuckols, who was fired after the allegations arose, worked as a teacher’s aide at Mt. Vernon Middle School under Shipley’s supervision. She had previously worked as a substitute teacher at Mt. Vernon High School.
Shipley told the judge Friday a high school employee called him on March 12 — the first Saturday of the district’s two-week spring break — alerting him to rumors Nuckols sent naked pictures to an 18-year-old male high school student, court document state.
Shipley said he believed his colleague was informing him of possible inappropriate behavior by someone he supervised rather than reporting suspicions of child abuse.
Shipley admitted he did not look into the allegations into Nuckols behavior because he believed the comments were just rumors. Had the woman said the victim was 17, Shipley would have acted differently, he told the judge Friday.
Students returned to class from spring break on March 28. Shipley said he intended to report the allegations that day, but he was at training outside the building — a class attended by the district’s superintendent and the high school’s assistant principal, Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter pointed out in court.
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.
Later that evening, Shelton contacted police.
During questioning from prosecutors, Castetter asked Shipley if he, after hearing the initial rumor, was concerned there might be other victims younger than 18. Shipley said, at the time, he had no reason to suspect there were more victims.
Castetter argued Shipley had a duty to report those suspicions to police immediately. By not reporting the rumors, Shipley delayed the investigation.
Shipley was not arrested after charges were filed, and he remains in his position at Mt. Vernon.
The misdemeanor charge Shipley faces carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.