Question remains if Bethesda coach accused of sexual abuse will take a plea deal

A former Bethesda, Maryland, high school rowing coach has another month to decide if he’ll take a plea deal on charges of sexually abusing two of his students.

The abuse is said to have happened while 47-year-old Kirk Shipley was coaching the girl’s rowing team at Walt Whitman High School. He was also a social studies teacher at the school.



Shipley was arrested in August of 2021 after two of his former students reported the abuse to police. The two were on the girl’s rowing team and were 17 and 18 at the time of the alleged abuse.

After an investigation, Shipley was charged with five counts of sexual abuse of a secondary education student, three first-degree offenses and two second-degree offenses.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Charging documents include pages of sexual text messages between the victims and Shipley.

Prosecutors offered Shipley a plea deal on March 14, in which he would plead guilty to one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student and one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student, and they would not pursue other charges relating to the case.

In return, Shipley would have to register as a sexual offender for life, and could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison or a $25,000 fine for each of the charges.

If he doesn’t take the deal, and is found guilty on all counts, he could be sentenced up to 40 years in prison and fines of up to $85,000.

Plea negotiations had been ongoing with no resolution. At the March 31 hearing, the judge set May 2 as the next hearing date and a time for Shipley to decide if he will accept or reject the offer.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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