Snyder-Hill, et al. v. The Ohio State University
Public Justice and its co-counsel represent 39 former students of The Ohio State University (OSU) who are suing the university over the sexual abuse they suffered while being examined by OSU physician Richard Strauss. They are among the potentially thousands of male students sexually abused by Dr. Strauss. The lawsuit alleges that OSU knew about and facilitated Dr. Strauss’s serial sexual abuse of male students for two decades.
OSU employed Dr. Strauss to provide medical care and treatment to its students and student-athletes, making him an assistant professor of medicine, the official sports team doctor, and an attending physician at the student health center. Dr. Strauss used his position of trust and confidence at OSU to sexually abuse male students and student-athletes on a regular basis throughout his 20-year tenure at the university, from 1978 through 1998. His sexual abuse of OSU students included fondling their testicles and penises, digitally penetrating their rectums, touching their bodies in other inappropriate ways, making inappropriate comments about their bodies, and asking improper, sexualized questions—all in the guise of providing needed medical evaluation and care.
OSU learned about Dr. Strauss’s inappropriate sexual conduct as early as his first year of employment there. Throughout Dr. Strauss’s 20-year tenure at OSU, OSU administrators, coaches, physicians, and other employees were repeatedly informed about Dr. Strauss’s sexual abuse of OSU students. Instead of taking action to stop Dr. Strauss’s serial sexual abuse, OSU not only turned a blind eye to it, but facilitated the abuse. For example, OSU required its student-athletes to see Dr. Strauss for annual physicals and medical treatment in order to participate in university sports and maintain their athletic scholarships—even after student-athletes complained to their coaches about the ways Dr. Strauss touched them during medical examinations.
OSU administrators and employees at Student Health Services also facilitated Dr. Strauss’s abuse. For example, after a student lodged a complaint detailing Dr. Strauss’s inappropriate sexual touching and comments during an examination, the Director of Student Health Services legitimized the abuse by telling the student that no one had complained about Dr. Strauss before and that Dr. Strauss had said the examination was medically appropriate
OSU’s institutional indifference to the rights and safety of its students—who, collectively, were exposed to decades of sexual abuse by Dr. Strauss—is staggering. Plainffs filed suit against OSU in the hope that the university will fulfill its goal of becoming “a national leader” in preventing and responding to sexual misconduct by making the systemic changes needed to ensure that students can obtain their education in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment and abuse by OSU employees. Plaintiffs also seek compensation for their injuries caused by OSU’s failure to take appropriate action to stop Dr. Strauss’s known sexual predation, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
OSU moved to dismiss the case, arguing that plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the statute of limitations. After the motion to dismiss was fully briefed, the court ordered the parties to participate in mediation. On March 15, 2019, the court referred the case to mediation before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett of the Southern District of Ohio.
On May 17, 2019 independent investigators from the firm of Perkins Coie released a damning report showing the extent both of Strauss’s abuse and of OSU’s failure to respond adequately to reports of abuse.
You can hear former students speak about their abuse at the hands of Dr. Strauss here. And you can also read our letter written with the National Women’s Law Center and 35 other organizations to Secretary DeVos, which called for the now-opened investigation of sexual abuse at Ohio State University by the Department of Education.
- Adele Kimmel
Scott Smith, Brian Noethlich, Scott Elliot Smith LPA
Ilann Maazel, Debbie Greenberger, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLC