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Former Norman North wrestling coach releases statement after students charged with sexual assaults

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NORMAN, Okla. – Four Norman North students were charged in connection with sexual assaults on a bus on Feb. 1.

The students are accused of sexually assaulting a 12- and a 16-year-old.  Both victims are said to be members of the high school wrestling team.

The oldest of those charged is 18-year-old Tanner Shipman, who is being charged as an adult. The other three defendants are charged as youthful offenders.

On Feb. 4, some attorneys for the boys charged said the case isn’t what the district attorney is making it out to be, after watching the school bus surveillance video.

An adjunct coach, who was responsible for supervising students on the bus, was immediately dismissed,” according to a press release from Norman Public Schools on Jan. 14. “A second coach has been suspended pending further investigation.”

Early Tuesday evening, the attorney for the second former Norman North wresting coach, Russell Caldwell, released a statement on his behalf regarding the recent events.

“Russell Caldwell’s heart and prayers goes out to the victims involved relating to the recent criminal charges brought against several members of the Norman North wrestling team. As an initial matter, Caldwell was never a subject of any police investigation. From the moment he learned of these allegations, Caldwell cooperated and assisted in every step of the process with Norman police and Norman Public Schools. To be clear, Caldwell had absolutely zero knowledge of any of the actions that are the subject of recent criminal charges being filed. He was shocked and horrified when he learned of the allegations two days after the trip. Although only in his first year as a coach at Norman North, Caldwell disputes any allegation that there existed a culture of hazing or bullying allowed by coaches or that any coach on that bus had knowledge of or ignored anything that could lead someone to believe criminal behavior was taking place.”

The statement also addressed Caldwell’s current employment status.

“Caldwell’s employment was not terminated by Norman Public Schools. He is a first-year, nontenured teacher at Norman Public Schools on a temporary contract that automatically expired in May 2016. Law enforcement told Caldwell that he could not have done anything to prevent the alleged assaults. Caldwell wanted to defend his good name and reputation, but he chose to submit his resignation to avoid a public termination hearing for the benefit of himself, Norman Public Schools and those involved in the alleged incidents. On February 1, 2016, the Norman School Board expressly voted to accept Caldwell’s resignation (something it is not legally required to do) effective February 19, 2016. Again, Caldwell cannot express how sympathetic he feels for the victims of the alleged crimes, and hopes the responsibility for this situation will fall onto those who committed intentional and alleged criminal acts.”