Advocacy groups are calling on the U.S. Department of Education to open a civil rights investigation into how The Ohio State University responded to allegations of abuse by longtime school doctor Richard Strauss.
The National Women’s Law Center, in an August 1 letter, said that Ohio State should be investigated for potentially violating its Title IX obligations. The letter is addressed to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Kenneth Marcus of the Office of Civil Rights.
“Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities that are recipients of federal funding must respond to sexual harassment on their campus of which they know, or should know,” the letter reads. “This responsibility is triggered when responsible employees of the University, including coaches and assistant coaches of athletic teams, have knowledge about the sexual harassment.”
More than 100 former students reported first-hand accounts of misconduct by Strauss, who worked at the university from 1978-1998s. Lawsuits from over a dozen students claim that Ohio State administrators and athletic staff knew about but failed to act on reports of Strauss’ conduct.
“We write to urge the investigation of Ohio State University’s failure to respond to a widely known pattern of alleged sexual abuse, spanning approximately two decades, by Richard Strauss, an athletic team doctor, and to conduct a systemic-wide investigation into the University’s response to sexual abuse,” the letter continues.
The letter says that the Office of Civil Rights previously opened investigations into Michigan State University following allegations of sexual abuse by gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, and into University of Southern California for reports of abuse by gynecologist George Tyndall.
The letter is signed by 36 groups including the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus and a legal group representing some of the men suing Ohio State.
Ohio State is currently conducting its own investigation into Strauss’s alleged abuse, conducted by the outside law firm Perkins Coie. As of July, investigators had interviewed over 200 former students and staff, with allegations coming from athletes from 14 school sports and patients of Student Health Services.
Strauss died by suicide in 2005.