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Walt Whitman High School teacher, community rowing coach charged with sexual abuse

A teacher at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda who also is a longtime coach at a community rowing club was arrested Tuesday and charged with engaging in an illegal relationship with a teenage student who had been on the crew team.

Kirkland Shipley, 47, of Northwest Washington, was charged with several counts of first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student.

Police arrested Shipley in the District, where authorities said the incidents involving the student happened in 2018.

Shipley, who has taught at the Montgomery County school for 20 years, made his initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday. A judge released him while barring him from contacting students he currently or formerly taught or coached, and set a court hearing for Sept. 15.

In a letter to parents, Walt Whitman’s principal, Robert W. Dodd, said Shipley has been placed on administrative leave.

A prosecutor said in court that Shipley has been barred from the school.

“These charges are deeply troubling and are a violation of the core values of our school and school system,” Dodd wrote.

A spokeswoman for Montgomery schools declined to comment on whether the school had received any complaints about Shipley.

Shipley led the Whitman Crew Team, which is a community club not sponsored by the school, to many awards. The Washington Post named him girls’ rowing coach of the year in 2019. Crew club officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The criminal charges involve a student who was on Shipley’s club crew team. The arrest affidavit alleges that Shipley flirted with the teenager and started a sexual relationship with her in 2018, after she had turned 18 but before she had graduated.

Shipley’s attorney, Amy Phillips of the D.C. Public Defender Service, argued in court that an initial version of the stay-away order proposed by the prosecution was overly broad, encompassing all former Whitman students.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Burrell narrowed her request to students Shipley had currently or previously coached or taught, noting that the criminal complaint identifies a second student who told police she had a sexual relationship with Shipley starting in 2013, after she had graduated but while she was 17.

Burrell said Shipley had been employed by Montgomery schools since 2001 and coaching crew since 2002. Before that, she said, he taught at a school in the District.

The prosecutor noted that both students told police they exchanged sexually explicit text messages with Shipley. Burrell said the investigation is continuing and she wanted a restrictive stay-away order so other current or former students could “feel safe coming forward.”

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