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Four Norman North High School students face felony rape-by-instrumentation charges

Penny Ridenour / Red Dirt Report
Four Norman North HS wrestlers face felony rape charges stemming from sexual attack on younger teammate.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Six lives.  Six lives were forever changed on a returning bus trip to Norman North High School from a wrestling competition in Pauls Valley. Four were charged  with rape of fellow students, ages 12 and 16, on a school bus on  Jan. 9 and continuing the same assault in the school parking lot.

Tanner Shane Shipman, 18, Chase Denton Smith, 16, and Sage Griffen Gandenberger, 17, have all been charged with three felony counts of rape by instrumentation. Hunter Oren Matthews, 17, has been charged with one count of rape by instrumentation. Shipman has been charged as an adult.

Court documents show that the perpetrators are accused of holding the 16 year old victim down under the bus seats and using fingers to anally penetrate him. 

The court affidavit said the 12 year old was “lured” to the back of the bus where he was held down and his mouth covered while attacked.  Upon arrival at the school, the alleged perpetrators once again cornered the 12 year old victim and continued to assault him between parked cars until his parent turned into the parking lot. One of the victims called the police.

“We are relieved to see these cases handled appropriately and hope justice is served swiftly,” said Stacey Wright, co-founder of the advocacy group, Yes, All Daughters, which was formed after another incident of rape at Norman North last year. 

Yes, All Daughters was critical of Norman Public Schools handling of that incident, but was part of a task force put together by Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Siano to address issues of bullying and victimization in the school system.

Cofounder of Yes, All Daughters Christina Owen, said the Norman Public School system has worked diligently this school year to be responsive in cases of sexual assault. 

“We feel that NPS and Dr. Siano have become active in trying to alleviate these issues. With the implementation of the school Task Force and the hiring of Victim Advocates, NPS has tried to be proactive this school year. It is a step in the right direction. Education is prevention, and we must focus on a proactive course of action instead of only reacting to these horrific incidences,”' Owen said. 

“These incidents speak to the larger cultural problem of sexual violence masked as hazing” Wright said.  “We must call this what it is - rape. We hope the victims find healing and that our community continues to stand against sexual violence.'”

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 17 percent of rape arrestees are under the age of 18.  Although rapes by athletes garner more media attention, statistically athletes do not commit more rapes than the generation population, but a study by United Educators in 2015 showed that college athletes are three times more likely to commit a multiple perpetrator assault.   

Norman Public School suspended “several” students over the incident and fired one of the wrestling coaches on the trip; another resigned. 

“We will not tolerate individuals who victimize our students.  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 with expanded training sessions and increased video surveillance equipment on district buses,” Siano said.

Coincidentally, Yes All Daughters was already planning a workshop called “The Talk” on Feb. 13 from 10 am – 12:30 pm.  Sponsored by Variety Care, the seminar is for parents, and children if the parents decide to bring them,  on how to address issues of sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases and healthy relationships. 

Yes, All Daughters is working in the legislature to advance HB 2959 and SB 1383 to make trainings like this a standard in Oklahoma Schools. Siano said Norman Public School has already put procedures in place to take swift action in cases of sexual assault and more sexual assault prevention education programs are planned in the schools.

“Our hearts break for these victims and our student advocacy coordinators are working closely with them through this traumatic time,” said Siano.

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