Title IX Poses Concern In Urban Meyer Scandal

Aug 2, 2018

Allegations that the wife of Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer knew about an assistant coach abusing his then-wife could spell trouble for the school. 

That's because, as a faculty member, Shelley Meyer may have been obligated to report the misconduct to school officials - as would Urban if he also knew. Not doing so may violate the school's Title IX responsibilities.

Courtney Smith, then-wife of assistant coach Zach Smith, says she told Shelley in 2015 that her husband physically abused her. The exchange was shown in text messages first reported by independent journalist Brett McMurphy.

Zach Smith was arrested in 2015 after a dispute with Courtney, during which she claims to have been physically abused. And Smith was accused of battery against her in 2009. Both charges were later dropped.

Deborah Wilson, psychologist and Title IX committee member at Southern Arkansas University, told WOSU's All Sides With Ann Fisher that if Shelley didn't speak up, it could constitute a Title IX violation.

“There are some individuals who are called responsible employees, and so some of the individuals would have the obligation to report to the Title IX committee," Wilson says.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination in any educational program receiving federal dollars. 

As an instructor of clinical practice in the Nursing School, Meyer would be exempt from reporting abuse she heard about in the course of clinical visits, but that exemption only applies to the physician-patient relationship. 

Ohio State's sexual misconduct policy otherwise requires all faculty members, or to report sexual misconduct, including domestic violence, when it involves staff or students. Under the policy reports must be made within five days.

The same requirements apply to "anyone who supervises faculty, staff, students, or volunteers," meaning Urban Meyer would be required to report any misconduct he heard about as well. Meyer's contract extension, which was signed on March 27, included an additional requirement that he immediately report any "known violations" of the sexual misconduct policy, including "intimate violence and stalking."

Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday while the school investigates the allegations.