INDIANAPOLIS — Former students of North Central High School have filed a lawsuit claiming the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township ignored complaints of misconduct and sexual harassment committed by theater director Nathan Shewell over the course of years.

Investigative reports revealed Shewell had a history of sexual abuse allegations and the lawsuit against the MSD of Washington Township accuses the school board of failing to perform proper background checks before hiring Shewell along with faculty members of the school ignoring complaints of his misbehavior for years.

The allegations in the complaint accuse Shewell of forcing students to participate in an acting exercise where he would take them into a closet and force them to reenact traumatic experiences while, in some cases, touching them inappropriately.

Nathan Shewell (photo provided by WDRB)

Shewell is accused of doing more, including calling female students by derogatory names and making insulting comments about their bodies. The lawsuit claims he also had his students act out sexual scenes, alone and with each other, and that he’d ask prying questions about their sex life and share details about his own.

“Nathan Shewell ripped from me the joy and love of performing and replaced it with the toxic and abusive environment he cultivated at North Central. I will never forget the way his words and actions made me feel,” said one of the plaintiffs, Natalie Schilling.

“It only adds insult to injury to know the faculty and administration knew about Shewell’s abuse and predatory behavior and did absolutely nothing to protect us. I pray that by holding the township accountable in court, they will never turn a blind eye to harassment or abuse in their schools ever again.”

Shewell taught North Central High School from 2013 until he was fired in 2020 after allegations finally came to light. An investigative report by WDRB uncovered that Shewell had taught at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg prior to coming to North Central. Several students came forward and spoke to WDRB during their investigation alleging Shewell had groomed and sexually abused students during his tenure at the southern Indiana school.

Shewell resigned from Silver Creek in 2012. When one of his former students from Silver Creek learned years later he was still teaching and was at North Central, she claimed to have called the school in 2020 prompting the school to place Shewell on leave and ultimately terminate his contract.

“Shewell was untruthful in his job application, engaged in inappropriate and criminal acts while at West Clark and continued inappropriate and unacceptable behavior while employed by the District,” said the MDS of Washington Township in a statement to WDRB.

But students of North Central High School said they’ve been telling the school district for years of Shewell’s abuse.

“The school district and its Board allowed Shewell and North Central staff members to prey on and ignore students – a complete failure of their responsibilities to these children,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “A simple background check would have shown that Shewell was a serial predator and harasser, and that alone would have saved countless students from the horrific abuse and harassment they endured at the hands of someone they should have been able to trust.” 

The lawsuit claims numerous school employees knew of Shewell’s misconduct through parental reports that stretch back to 2014. In 2018, the lawsuit documents said, Shewell was even suspended due to a rumor of a sexual relationship between himself and one of the plaintiffs. Shewell was allowed to return to North Central and continue teaching, however, after a “minimal investigation,” according to the lawsuit.

“Our educational system should provide safe spaces in which young people can flourish, but instead of finding that at North Central High School, these young women faced sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse,” said Jeff Gibson, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “Through this lawsuit, we intend to hold the responsible parties accountable for their complete disregard for student safety and equality.” 

Nathan Shewell has not been criminally charged in relation to any of the allegations against him. The statute of limitations has passed for several of his allegations.