COLUMBUS — Federal officials are investigating Ohio State University's response to allegations against a team doctor now accused of sexual misconduct against scores of athletes and other male students in the 1980s and 1990s.
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights will examine whether Ohio State has responded "promptly and equitably" to students' complaints, including claims that school officials knew about misconduct by Dr. Richard Strauss but didn't stop him, the school said Thursday. That office oversees enforcement of a federal law that bars sex discrimination in education.
Advocacy groups including the National Women's Law Center had urged the department to conduct such a review, as was done with headline-making allegations of recurrent sexual misconduct by doctors at Michigan State University and the University of Southern California.
Ohio State's chief compliance officer, Gates Garrity-Rokous, said the school has responded appropriately since allegations were made this spring about Strauss, who killed himself in 2005.
"We are confident in the independence and thoroughness of the investigation we launched then as well as our ongoing commitment to transparency," said Garrity-Rokous, a university vice president.
Some former students say they raised concerns about Strauss to university employees as early as the late 1970s, early in Strauss' nearly 20-year employment there. Ohio State has said allegations that staff didn't properly respond back then are a key part of the ongoing independent investigation being conducted by the law firm Perkins Coie.
They have received accounts of Strauss' sexual misconduct from more than 100 people , including male athletes from 14 sports and others raising concerns about the doctor's interactions at the student health center and his off-campus medical office.
Many of the accusers who have spoken publicly allege Strauss groped them or conducted unnecessary genital exams. Some of them are plaintiffs in three related lawsuits filed against the school.
The allegations range from 1979 to 1997, during most of Strauss' two decades on the faculty and medical staff. Employment records released by the university referenced no reprimands or disciplinary action over any such concerns, but Ohio State has a record of at least one documented complaint from 1995, when a student health center director said a student's complaint about being inappropriately touched by Strauss during an exam was the first such complaint he'd received.
Strauss' relatives have said they were shocked by sexual abuse allegations against him and want to know the truth.
Ohio State has urged anyone with information about Strauss to contact Perkins Coie, noting that the investigators are concerned about re-traumatizing victims and thus aren't reaching out directly to former students who may have been examined by Strauss.
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