FORTVILLE, Ind. – Hancock County prosecutors say Mt. Vernon Middle School Principal Scott Shipley did have a duty to report child abuse allegations, despite Shipley’s claims he did not have to because the student was 18 years old when he learned of the allegations.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Marie Castetter filed a motion Wednesday saying Shipley “misconstrued his duty to report.”
Shipley is charged with one misdemeanor count for failure to report allegations of child abuse surrounding former teacher’s aide and substitute teacher, Kisha Nuckols.
The victim Q.P. was 17 years old when he was abused by Nuckols, prosecutors said in the motion, which means Shipley still had a duty to report the allegations even though Q.P. had turned 18.
“Nowhere in the statute does it define when the duty to report expires,” read the motion filed by prosecutors.
Indiana law requires school officials to immediately report allegations of child abuse and neglect to either the Indiana Department of Child Services or police.
The law is meant to encourage effective reporting of suspected child abuse, provide protection for victims and rehabilitative services for abused and neglected children, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors argued failing to report, even though a victim has turned 18, discourages reporting of suspected abuses, provides for abuse to continue, and ignores opportunities for rehabilitative services for the child.
The school district has faced criticism for waiting 17 days to report the alleged abuse to the proper authorities.
In court documents filed earlier this month, Shipley’s attorney John Tompkins said the duty to report only arises when the potential victim is a child when the official learns of the possible abuse.
“If the potential victim is an adult at that time the potential abuse or neglect is discovered, it is unreasonable to impose any duty to report under Indiana’s comprehensive statutory scheme governing the reporting and investigation of child abuse or neglect,” read the court filing.
According to the probable cause affidavit, a counselor informed Shipley on March 12 about rumors regarding Nuckols.
Q.P. did not turn 18 until December 2015, but the sexual encounters started in October or November of 2015, according to the probable cause affidavit.
Nuckols admitted to having sex with Q.P. when she knew he was 17 years old and that the relationship was wrong, records show.
On March 29, Shipley contacted assistant principal Derek Shelton to discuss rumors of Nuckols sending inappropriate messages to students.
Shipley said he didn’t feel any students were in imminent danger due to school not being in session for spring break.
A court hearing is scheduled on Shipley’s criminal case for August 12.
Scott Shipley is still employed as the Mt. Vernon Middle School principal, according to the district’s website.