National advocacy groups want investigation at Ohio State over sex abuse allegations

Women’s groups and civil rights organizations are calling for a federal investigation of Ohio State University and its handling of sexual abuse allegations against a former athletics doctor.

The letter to the U.S. Department of Education from the National Women’s Law Center and 36 other organizations is the latest in what is turning out to be an extensive, high-profile issue for the university.

In April, Ohio State announced it hired outside attorneys to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, a team physician at the university from 1979 to his retirement in 1998. Strauss died by suicide in 2005 at age 67.

Related: OSU investigating deceased doctor for sexual misconduct

Over the past four months, more than 100 former students have reported firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by Strauss and three lawsuits have been filed against the university.

Several former OSU wrestlers accused U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, who was an assistant coach at the university from 1986 to 1994, of failing to report the sexual abuse allegations.

Related: Trump backs Jordan ‘100 percent’ against claims he ignored OSU sex abuse

The National Women’s Law Center, NAACP, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Organization of Women, Women’s Sports Foundation and others sent the letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Kenneth Marcus, assistant secretary for civil rights, on Aug. 1.

Under federal Title IX laws, colleges and universities receiving federal funds must respond to sexual harassment on their campus when they know about it or reasonably should know.

"Many student survivors are not aware of their rights under Title IX and how to seek help; many employees would rather look the other way than to acknowledge and deal with the abuse; and many institutions fail to take the steps necessary to ensure student safety," the letter said.

Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said in a written statement: “It is critical to note that the concerns expressed by these groups in this letter relate to allegations of abuse during a period of time from 1978 to 1998, and the university of today shares the concern that individuals at the time knew and may not have responded appropriately, which is why this is a critical focus of the ongoing independent investigation. We are committed to finding the truth of what happened during that time at Ohio State.”

The groups sent a second letter to three U.S. House Committees, urging they hold hearings on “the profoundly troubling phenomenon of colleges and universities covering up sexual abuse perpetrated on students by employees.”

The groups also said the federal Department of Education should end its efforts to weaken the Title IX requirements.

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