NORMAN, Okla. – Four Norman North High School students have been charged in connection with sexual assaults on a wrestling bus.
District Attorney Greg Mashburn filed the charges against the four high school students on Feb. 1.
The students are accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old 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. We are not releasing their names because they are juveniles.
Mashburn says the crimes happened on a Norman North High School bus in Garvin County and outside the high school as the team returned from a tournament.
“In this case, a significant line was crossed, it went way further into more of an assault than it was just boys being boys or anything like that,” Mashburn said.
Mashburn says the 16-year-old was assaulted first, in between seats on the back of the JV wrestling bus. We’re told cameras inside the bus captured the alleged crime, even the alleged suspects bragging about the assault as it happened.
“Once that was over, then the discussion began about getting some of the younger wrestlers back to the back of the bus,” Mashburn said.
That’s when investigators claim Shipman lured the 12-year-old victim to the back of the bus.
We’re told while one of Shipman’s friends held the boy down, another teen raped him.
However, the 12-year-old victim says the nightmare didn’t end there.
A second alleged assault happened back on campus.
We’re told a group of wrestlers, including Shipman, forced the boy behind a building and raped him again.
“They assaulted him again there, he gets up and there’s a third time when they just had grabbed him and put him in between two cars, but his father had pulled up, so the assaults stopped,” Mashburn said.
Norman Public Schools released the following statement regarding the charges:
“Student safety is a top priority and we followed procedures we have in place that allow us to effectively investigate and take swift action in these situations. We appreciate the individuals who came forward to provide information, the Norman Police Department’s thorough investigation and the quick action by the District Attorney on this incident. We are well-prepared to handle situations like this and have programs in place to support students who experience trauma. And, while we believe the district’s policies regarding student supervision are strong, we continuously evaluate our procedures to ensure they are followed. As we address the inappropriate behavior displayed by several students, we remain committed to supporting the vast majority of our student athletes, who are quality individuals that demonstrate positive behavior and strong character traits.” Dr. Joseph Siano, superintendent, Norman Public Schools.
NewsChannel 4 asked why the 12-year-old was on the same bus as upperclassmen, and a spokesperson told us all those students were on the junior varsity team, so despite their ages, they rode together.
On Monday afternoon, school district leaders confirmed that a second coach has resigned.
Mashburn says the four students charged are expected to turn themselves in on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Dr. Joseph Siano, the superintendent with Norman Public Schools, released a second statement on the incident.
“We will not tolerate individuals who victimize our students. Upon notification of the incident we immediately began an investigation and within hours suspended students involved, dismissed one coach and suspended a second coach pending an investigation. The second coach’s employment with the district has since been terminated and suspended students are being disciplined by the school to the fullest extent of the law. We have also strengthened our student activity travel procedures and now require increased supervision on all student trips, supervisors to be seated in areas where they can see students at all times, procedures to be reinforced and expanded training sessions and increased video surveillance equipment on district buses. In addition, we continue to implement sexual assault prevention education programs in our schools and previously implemented procedures have prepared us to take swift action in these cases. Our hearts break for these victims and our student advocacy coordinators are working closely with them through this traumatic time.”