This story was updated at 5:40 p.m. on June 3, 2022, to include a comment from the acting president of the Walt Whitman Crew Boosters and again at 11 a.m. on June 6, 2022 to include a comment on behalf of the victims.

A former crew coach and teacher at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda pleaded guilty Friday to sexually abusing one former female member of a community rowing team and possessing sexually explicit photos of another.

Kirk Shipley, now 48, of Northwest Washington, D.C., was charged in August with first and second-degree child sexual abuse of a secondary education student, in connection with charges that he had sexual interactions with rowers who were 17 and 18 years old at the time, according to authorities.

After his arrest, Shipley was fired by Whitman Crew, a parent-run community rowing club where he had been a longtime coach.

The two students were also students of Shipley, who was a longtime teacher of social studies and history at Whitman. He is no longer employed by Montgomery County Public Schools.

Shipley pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to one count each of first-degree sex abuse of a secondary education student and possession of a sexual performance by a minor.

Shipley faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison on each charge. Other penalties might include registering as a sex offender for life, and possible restitution. Shipley is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9.

According to authorities, Shipley allegedly had a sexual relationship with the 17-year-old in the summer of 2013, beginning after she graduated. The student was a rower on the team and was in Shipley’s history class during her junior year, she told D.C. police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Burrell said during Friday’s virtual hearing that Shipley had been the 2013 graduate’s head coach since her sophomore year. During her senior year he began messaging her frequently on Gchat about personal topics, Burrell said.

One month after the 17-year-old graduated, Shipley invited her to his home in D.C. and had sex with her, and that relationship continued into the fall of 2013 after the victim had started college, Burrell said. Burrell added that Shipley also sent the teen multiple sexually explicit photos of himself.

The second victim was a member of the crew team from 2014 to 2018, and Shipley had been the head coach starting her sophomore year, Burrell said. He had also been her history and geography teacher, she said.

The victim, who was 18 at the time of the abuse, exchanged more than 4,000 texts with Shipley between February 2018 and her graduation four months later, often about “personal topics,” Burrell said. Starting on Memorial Day 2018, Shipley would pick up the 18-year-old and drive her to his home where the sexual abuse would occur, Burrell said.

After Burrell read the statement of facts for each victim, Associate Superior Court Judge Maribeth Raffinan asked Shipley if the facts were true, to which he answered that they were.

An outside consultant conducted a “culture review” in June 2021 of the women’s crew team after seven rowers complained about Shipley and the board of directors received “disconcerting feedback” about him, board President Dave Charlton previously told Bethesda Beat. Those complaints did not involve allegations of sexual misconduct, according to the board.

The board suspended Shipley in the summer of 2021 pending the culture review, but then rehired him for the fall season. Shipley was arrested by D.C. police eight days after being rehired, according to court records.

Sanjay Mullick, acting president of the Walt Whitman Crew Boosters, said in a statement to Bethesda Beat Friday afternoon that “the board has cooperated fully with law enforcement throughout this process and our thoughts at this time are with our current and former rowers.”

“We will continue to provide support and counseling to our team members, both current and former,” Mullick said in the statement.

On Monday, the Network for Victim Recovery of DC released a statement saying that the organization and the victims “are glad that defendant Shipley accepted responsibility for the abuse he inflicted, and we will be spending the next few months preparing for the sentencing phase.”

Under the terms of Friday’s plea agreement, the government waives sentence enhancements and Shipley must waive his right to allocution – the opportunity to address the court ­– his attorney, Thomas Key, said in court Friday. Additionally, Shipley must not oppose the reading of community or individual victim impact statements at sentencing, Burrell said.

The plea agreement is similar to one that the government had proposed in mid-March, but the legal process dragged out after Shipley first proposed a counter offer that was rejected by the government, and then changed attorneys in late April. Shipley’s new defense council then requested additional time to review discovery in the case as well as the prosecution’s plea offer, further delaying the proceedings.

Shipley faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison on each charge. Other penalties might include registering as a sex offender for life, and possible restitution. Shipley is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com