I wrote the statement below in response to the news story titled “State revokes teaching license for North Central teacher amidst misconduct allegations” by Kara Kenney, featured on WRTV in Indianapolis, Indiana on February 22, 2021. My statement seeks to address the system and individuals that enabled Nathan Shewell to remain a teacher despite numerous reports and allegations of his misconduct and inappropriate relationships with students in multiple school districts. (Read my letter to Indiana State Senators here.)
To Whom It Should Concern:
After reviewing the documents pertaining to the investigation regarding the conduct of Nathan Shewell, only one conclusion can be made: the system failed to protect its students.
I was a student of Nathan Shewell’s at Silver Creek High School. I was first introduced to Nathan Shewell during the summer of 2009 and remained his pupil through his resignation in 2012. Throughout those three years, I can say with utmost certainty that Nathan Shewell influenced me, my life outlook, and wellbeing. From the time I joined the theatre program, I heard rumors of his sexual preferences, partners, and history, such as the nude photos found of his wife on his work computer, his relationships with former students, such as Victim #1, and his alleged comments toward senior girls each year, who we dubbed his “girl of the year.”
Then, as I aged, I heard many more comments personally—comments on our bodies, how attire flattered (or didn’t) our breasts and figures, and his latest “girl of the year.” My already-graduated friends told me how they’d made reports to our principal, or their parents had, yet nothing had been done—Shewell remained our instructor and director, after all. Meanwhile, these same friends—some of whom had engaged in sexual relationships with him after they’d graduated—warned me that Shewell’s treatment of me mirrored that of how he’d treated prior “girls of the year,” and I needed to keep my guard up. At the time, I brushed it off. “That must just be Shewell,” I’d tell myself, “If it was really that bad, administration would do something.”
It was at the start of my junior year (August of 2012) that I began to feel exactly how toxic the environment Shewell had established was.
I came from an at-risk home, and Shewell was the most consistent adult in my life. He provided me with food, clothes, and money when I needed it, even paying for a surgery when my mother couldn’t. However, a newcomer to the theatre department in the winter of 2011 had drawn his attention, and after receiving forwarded text messages detailing their sexual relationship, I went to the principal myself. I stated that it concerned me because of things I’d witnessed Shewell say and do, as well as rumors I’d heard, that he may not have waited until she graduated before having sex with her. I was told by the principal that there was nothing they could do since she no longer was a student, and although Shewell was married, how he decided to treat his marriage was his business, not the school’s. I was then sent to class, despite my protests that this revelation made me feel like I had a target on my back, that I was marked for his “girl of the year” for the class of 2014.
This is a gross injustice by the administration of Silver Creek. As an adult now, and as a mother of a daughter, I do not want to believe that this conversation I had with my principal did not launch at least a “closer eye” on Shewell and his interactions with female students—yet, that is the reality I lived. And although it was only a few weeks later that Shewell was suspended and then resigned from Silver Creek for his treatment of yet another female student, the reality that he was able to successfully omit these events from the hiring process at North Central High School indicates a failure on the part of North Central High School to conduct a thorough and complete background check.
By allowing Nathan Shewell to surrender his license, justice has not been brought on behalf of the dozens of students whose lives were forever changed by their teacher. Furthermore, no peace has been provided for potential future students—of Nathan Shewell or another individual—to ensure that they will be protected when they report misconduct or a hostile environment to school or district administration. What concerns me the most about the results of the investigation into Nathan Shewell’s behavior is the recurrent theme that once he has resigned and / or surrendered his license and ability to teach, the state of Indiana has seemingly declared the matter “case closed,” all the while his former students have no such closure. In tandem with the betrayal of our trust exhibited by Shewell’s actions, I feel confident in speaking for all survivors that we do not want a single student more to feel this way when they look back at their academic career. As a former student and as a mother, the standard for an individual entrusted with a child’s well-being is lacking, and the process to ensure students’ mental, emotional, physical, and sexual safety by respect for their autonomy and vulnerability leaves much to be desired.
Nathan Shewell may be out of the classroom, yet I am confident his lesson has not been learned. For that matter, I am unsure if the state of Indiana has the protocols in place to teach it effectively.
Silver Creek High School (2014)