INDIANA — A former Silver Creek High School teacher has lost his teaching license after an investigation into allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with students. Some of the incidents were reported to have happened nine or more years ago.
Nathan Shewell, who most recently oversaw theater programs at North Central High School in Indianapolis, had his license revoked Jan. 6 by the Indiana Department of Education, just over a year after the school received a tip alerting administration to inappropriate relationships with students at his previous post, which was Silver Creek.
He won’t be able to teach in Indiana for the next three years and will have to go before an administrative judge to be reconsidered in the future, a representative from the Indiana Department of Education [IDOE] said. His license was first issued in 2005.
In an Aug. 20 court filing addressed to the state Department of Education, the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township (Washington Township Schools), which includes North Central High School, requested that based on findings over the past year — which had included allegations of impropriety from both Silver Creek and North Central students — that Shewell’s teaching license be revoked.
“For the safety and well-being of the children in the state of Indiana, their families and their communities, the district does not believe Shewell should be permitted the privilege of teaching children,” the five-page document reads.
Multiple messages seeking comment from Shewell via a personal email address listed in documents, along with messages left for his attorney, were not returned by Tuesday afternoon.
He started his career at La Plata High School in Maryland in 2006, and resigned a year and a half later in June 2007. He was at Silver Creek High School from August 2008 until his resignation Sept. 28, 2012. He started at North Central in August 2013 and was terminated May 26, 2020.
This was “after the district learned that he made false statements in his job application in an effort to conceal his resignation from a previous employer due to allegations of inappropriate interactions with students at that school corporation,” according to a statement sent to the News and Tribune from Washington Township Schools.
Shewell was placed on administrative leave by North Central on Feb. 25 of last year pending an investigation into the matter, and on March 6, he met with the district’s counsel for an interview. He said he had left Silver Creek mid-year because he realized he was working too much and that he wasn’t aware of or couldn’t recall any complaints related to communications with female students or instances of him having “crossed the line,” according to the request for license revocation.
But two of the women who shared their stories with the News and Tribune, along with those not listed by name in documents related to his license revocation, give a different narrative — one of manipulation, bullying, inappropriate contact and abuse. They say three years is not enough — they believe he should not ever be allowed to teach again. And on a bigger scale, they say things need to change to protect students from educators who abuse them and to loosen statutes that limit reporting from people who have experienced abuse.
HOW IT BEGAN
The investigation began when Ashley Nation, a senior in the Silver Creek drama program when Shewell started in 2008, called North Central in early 2020 after she learned Shewell was teaching there.
“I immediately picked up the phone and left a voicemail for the principal and told them they had a predator working for them,” Nation, who is listed in the IDOE complaint as “Victim 1,” told the News and Tribune. Nation went public with her identity as she sought to help others.
Nation said when she met Shewell in 2008, he appeared to be what students would refer to as “the cool teacher.” But as his focus honed in on her, she said, things slowly began to change in ways the high school senior at first didn’t see as problematic.
Nation had been having a tough time at home and theater became her happy place, she said. As director of that program, Shewell became a trusted adult she felt she could look to for guidance. Eventually, though, she said he started prying into her sex life, and telling her about his. The relationship changed to one that gave him a larger-than-life presence in hers.
“He went from ‘I’m here if you need me’ to ‘I’m the only one who ever cared about you,’” Nation recalled. “He made it seem like nobody is going to understand that this is how I care about you.”
After graduation and once she turned 18, the relationship turned physical, sometimes on school grounds. Nation soon realized something was strange about it and cut off contact completely. Shewell resigned several years later on Sept. 28, 2012, after the school year had started.
In the following years, the two had contact once when Shewell asked if he could attend Nation’s 2013 wedding, which she declined. Otherwise, she said, she believed that Shewell would not be allowed to teach. That was until she learned a year ago that he was at another high school in Indianapolis.
“I felt a level of [anger] I can’t even explain,” she said. “I just couldn’t even imagine how many young girls North Central had failed because they didn’t realize who they had working for them.”
Former Silver Creek student Olivia Castetter, the fourth listed in the license revocation request filed by Washington Township Schools, was in eighth grade in 2009 when she first met Shewell. She said she now fully believes she was being groomed by the teacher for a sexual relationship, although it didn’t reach that point.
She recalls her friends and others in the program warning her about the increased attention they saw the teacher giving her.
“They would say ‘keep your guard up, don’t be alone around Shewell; he’s started to treat you the way he treated me when I was younger, he’s tried to sleep with me since,’” Castetter recalled them saying.
“I always kind of shrugged it off.”
But similar to some of the others Shewell is said to have targeted, Castetter was having a hard time at home and turned to her teacher as a source of stability and guidance. He bought her clothes; he and his wife had Castetter and her mother to their home for dinner several times, and he helped the student buy her mother Christmas presents.
“He very much made me feel like he cared for me,” she said, adding that the relationship was more emotional and platonic, although it definitely crossed the boundaries, like when Shewell hugged her as she was changing during a show. “I now see that this was grooming behavior, that he was making me dependent on him.”
Castetter said she was aware of several students Shewell had sex or a relationship with but when she took to an administrator evidence of one such relationship with a student who had since graduated, she said her concern was dismissed. The person to whom Castetter said she took the information said it was not the school’s business if he were having sex with a former student who was of age.
“I thought ‘well if that’s all the school is going to do about it, I guess it really is okay,’” Castetter said. “You tell children if somebody makes you uncomfortable, tell a trusted adult and a trusted adult will handle it. I was a kid, I told a trusted adult, and the trusted adult brushed it off.”
Cathy Ryan, who taught at Silver Creek from 2001 through 2010 as assistant drama teacher, said students were subject to “emotional and verbal abuse daily” by Shewell, and that she also heard from students.
“He basically held those kids hostage because if they reported, then they didn’t get parts and they got abused more,” she said. Ryan said she went to administrators multiple times, making verbal, emailed and written reports, all of which were brushed off. She said nothing was done until a parent of a student got involved. She said Shewell was then given the choice to resign or be terminated and was allowed to resign.
Ryan said she was later surprised when she encountered him at a musical performance contest at North Central.
“I was flabbergasted,” she said. “What happened was that they passed him on...and nobody told those folks what was happening down here.”
During his time there, Silver Creek was under the West Clark Community Schools. But as of July 1, 2020, the district split into two new districts with Silver Creek School Corp. the new district overseeing the elementary, middle and high school under that name.
A Silver Creek human resources representative said Friday that Shewell had been under the West Clark umbrella at the time he taught there, and that “Silver Creek School Corporation takes any allegations of teacher misconduct seriously, and has no information to provide as to how a different organization and administration handled the matter,” according to an email.
Following Shewell’s termination, several other students from Washington Township Schools and from Silver Creek have come forward with accusations of impropriety against Shewell, according to the license revocation filing.
Complaints include that Shewell discussed sex with them, talked about and touched their breasts and other parts of their bodies, left nude pictures of his wife on the class computer and “would come up behind students to rub against them and touch them, and would talk about sexual experiences with students,” according to filings. One student said that when she graduated, Shewell and his wife gave her a “sex kit” and discussed their open marriage.
“All the victims, and multiple witnesses, describe the respondent [Shewell] as a bully that would often make fun of students in front of the whole group, calling them ‘ugly, fat and untalented,’” according to the complaint. “Many describe the theater programs he oversaw as a toxic environment.”
After Nation had come forward last year and during the subsequent investigation into Shewell’s behavior, she also spoke with Sellersburg police about the two years of abuse she’d endured. Due to the statute of limitations in Indiana, no criminal charges could be sought or civil cases brought related to Silver Creek students, which has incited Nation and others to action. Childhood sexual abuse can only be brought to a civil case within seven years.
“How does a law — a piece of paper — dictate that I only have seven years to be considered a victim of sexual abuse?” Nation wrote in a public statement she posted on social media last week and gave to the News and Tribune. “Why do legislators I have never met get to decide when I should be mentally prepared to take on the DARKEST parts of my life? Why does anyone have a right to tell me that I have no right to justice simply because of the passage of time?”
During the current General Assembly session, she and Castetter said they have made numerous calls to Indiana lawmakers in support of Indiana Senate Bill 135, legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to bring civil cases. The bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee in January and has never had a hearing. But the women have no plans to stop the fight for justice for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of educators or otherwise.
“I have two young girls,” Nation said. “At this point, I’m doing it for them. There are holes in the public school system that need to be fixed and when it’s hard I think, ‘it’s not about me anymore.’”