Investigation Into Whitman Crew Coach Misconduct Allegations

Sanford Heisler Sharp is investigating Kirk Shipley and the individuals and entities that enabled him to allegedly engage in a more-than-decade-long pattern of grooming and sexual abuse of student-athletes on the girls’ crew team at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland. Along with the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. (NVRDC), Sanford Heisler Sharp represents several former student-athletes who were victimized by Shipley.

As part of the investigation, our attorneys are interested in speaking with anyone who may have knowledge or experience regarding sexual harassment or other wrongdoing by Shipley at Whitman High School and on other teams with which he was associated, including teams that rowed out of the Thompson Boat Center (TBC) in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Shipley, who was also a longtime social studies teacher at Walt Whitman High, was arrested in August 2021 by the Metropolitan Police Department and faces multiple charges of child sexual abuse of a secondary education student related to two victims, with the incidents occurring in 2013 and 2018. According to the criminal complaint, Shipley groomed the victims into a sexual relationship through personal and then increasingly explicit text and Google Chat messages exchanged during and after their high school years. He also allegedly used his position as coach of the summer crew team at TBC to further his pursuit of one of the victims.

Recent reporting by The Washington Post details two separate instances in which formal complaints were lodged against Shipley, both times prompting the parent-run board overseeing the crew team to hire an outside investigator. In June 2021, seven graduating seniors urged the board to reconsider Shipley’s contract, describing a toxic culture created by Shipley’s pattern of mental manipulation, inappropriate communications, and his being “overly involved” in their personal lives. Three years prior, in 2018, the parent of a rower similarly complained about the toxic culture on the crew team, and also reported a rumor that Shipley was engaged in a sexual relationship with a rower.

Reporting by The Post confirms that the 2018 complaint against Shipley was brought to the attention of Walt Whitman High School officials, Montgomery County child welfare authorities, and the national organization USRowing.

Federal civil rights law under Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at schools and educational or athletic programs that receive federal funds. Under Title IX, schools are required to respond to and remedy hostile educational environments.

Sanford Heisler Sharp has a track record of representing victims in Title IX civil rights cases. In 2019, the firm reached a $14 million settlement with Dartmouth College in a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of female victims of a so-called “Predators Club” of professors in the school’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. The firm recently filed a Title IX complaint against Harvard University alleging that the school failed to protect three students from a professor’s nearly decade-long pattern of sexual harassment and retaliation. The firm is also representing the victim of a former teacher at the exclusive New Hampshire prep school Phillips Exeter Academy who allegedly groomed and sexually assaulted her when she was his student.

If you have knowledge or experience regarding sexual harassment or other wrongdoing by Shipley and/or other individuals or entities with which he associated, please contact us by emailing investigation.md@sanfordheisler.com.