Former principal takes deal: Man ordered to give speeches on abuse

FORTVILLE — A former Mt. Vernon schools principal will make educational presentations to staffers in every district in the county in exchange for prosecutors dismissing the criminal charge he faces, officials said.

Scott Shipley, 44, 9261 N. Water Bay Circle, McCordsville, entered into an agreement with prosecutors Friday afternoon in which he admitted police had reason to investigate him for failing to report allegations of child abuse; he did not plead guilty to a crime.

The deal requires Shipley to speak with teachers and administrations in the county’s four school district about the importance of reporting suspected child abuse and neglect — using his own experience as reference.

Shipley, the former principal at Mt. Vernon Middle School, was charged in April 2016 with failure to report as a Class B misdemeanor.

Investigators believe Shipley didn’t do enough to alert police of a rumor his employee was involved in a sexual relationship with a high school student. The teacher’s aide accused of the assault, Kisha Nuckols of Fortville, later pleaded guilty to child seduction.

State law requires any adult who suspects a child has been abused to make a report to police.

Police said Shipley waited 17 days to report accusations that Nuckols sent naked photos of herself to students.

Shipley got a phone call from a concerned colleague, who relayed the rumor, according to police reports. The call came on the first day of the district’s two-week spring break that year, and Shipley waited until classes had reconvened to tell another administrator about the situation, police said. That administrator then called the police.

Shipley told police he was driving to Florida with his family when he received the call on his cellphone, court documents state. He did not believe students were in danger because school was not in session, he told police. 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.

Shipley was charged after police had concluded their investigation into Nuckols’ behavior. By accepting the deal – called an agreement to withhold prosecution – Shipley avoids going before a jury. His trial was set to begin Monday.

Now, Shipley will spend the summer developing his presentation with the help of representatives of the Indiana Department of Child Services and the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office. The presentations will likely be delivered throughout next school year, officials said.

If Shipley follows through with his end of the agreement and completes his presentation tour by May 2018, the Class B misdemeanor charge he faces will be dismissed, officials said.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said concluding the case with an agreement gave prosecutors the chance to use Shipley’s case as an example for others.

Law enforcement wants to make sure nothing like this happens again, Eaton said. The only way to ensure that is to educate community members about the law and the ramifications one could face if they break it, he said.

“We’re getting a good opportunity to raise awareness while still holding him accountable,” Eaton said.

Shipley has since moved into a new position within the school district that removed him from the middle school. He now serves as the director of special programs and works out of an office in the district’s administration building, where he rarely interacts with students.

Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter, who was handling the state’s case, said she considered Shipley’s new position when crafting the agreement. Because Shipley now has little to no contact with children, there is little risk of him making this mistake again, she said.

Maj. Pat Bratton with the Fortville Police Department, the agency that handled the Shipley and Nuckols investigations, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the case.

The department has always had a good relationship with the school district – despite having to investigation a high-profile employee. He expects that positive relationship to continue.

Shipley declined to comment on the agreement. His attorney, John Tompkins of Indianapolis, had not returned a call for comment at press time.

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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.