Friday, September 29, 2023

Former Whitman teacher sexually abused students


Kirkland Shipley, 48, of Washington, DC, a former social studies teacher and girls’ rowing coach at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, was sentenced to three years in prison Friday for sexually abusing a high school student and possessing sexually explicit material of a 17-year-old former high school student, the US Department of Justice reports.

Shipley will spend three years in prison, followed by two years of probation, and a lifetime of being required to register as a sex offender. According to court documents, he pleaded guilty to two counts in June: first-degree sexual abuse of a high school student and possession of a sexual performance by a minor.

One victim was on the girls’ crew team at Whitman from 2014 to 2018. Shipley was her head coach from her sophomore year to her senior year, as well as her history and geography teacher.

During her sophomore year of high school, Shipley began texting the victim about rowing and personal matters. This continued into her senior year, in which Shipley began to text the victim more frequently and about increasingly personal topics.

On at least two occasions in May 2018, before this victim’s graduation, he picked the victim up in his car and sexually abused her at his residence.

The other victim was on the girls’ crew team at Walt Whitman High School from 2009 to 2013, and Shipley was her head coach from her sophomore year to her senior year. He also was this victim’s history teacher during her junior year.

During the spring of the victim’s senior year, Shipley began to message her on GChat about rowing and personal matters. A month after her graduation, in July 2013, when the victim was 17 years old, Shipley invited her to his residence in Washington and had sex with her.

He continued having sex with this victim throughout the summer and after she began college in the fall of 2013. During this time, Shipley possessed sexually explicit photos and videos of the victim, while she was a 17-year-old minor, and sent this victim photos and videos of his penis and of himself masturbating.

Upon reporting the story, Greta Berglund in the student newspaper at Whitman referred to a pattern of grooming by Shipley that extended beyond the two victims in the criminal trial. In support, she quoted a statement, read during the trial, featuring stories of rowers who were directly affected by Shipley:

Some of us have had experiences that we knew were inappropriate, but which haven’t warranted legal consideration. Being hit on repeatedly — despite refusing his advances — being invited out in a launch in the evening, encouraged to go skinny dipping and ogled throughout, and in some severe instances, drinking at a team or post-race party, only to wake up with Kirk Shipley on our beds not knowing how or why he was there. …

These stories cover interactions that have spanned from high school, through college, and into post-college rowing. We have borne witness to our friends, teammates, and sisters, being targeted and falling victim to the same cycle of manipulation and abuse, feeling helpless to stop it.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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