For decades male students and student athletes at The Ohio State University had reported sexual abuse by Dr. Richard H. Strauss. On Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine held a press conference to announce the findings of the investigation into the handling of those allegations.
The governor’s working group, created by Executive Order 2019-16D on May 20, 2019, determined there was “an ‘astounding failure’ of anyone in a position of authority at the university to initiate a medical board or criminal investigation into Strauss’ conduct.”
DeWine’s own comments on the failures of the State Medical Board to act on the case were equally damning.
“As a result of this review, we now know that the staff at the State Medical Board of Ohio did investigate sexual assault allegations against Dr. Richard Strauss and investigators did discover credible evidence of sexual misconduct. However, sadly, there was no action to remove Strauss’ medical license and sadly no one notified law enforcement officials,” DeWine said.
The governor’s working group included members of law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals, a victim advocate and several current and former elected officials. It was chaired by Department of Public Safety Director Tom Stickrath.
Key findings of the group include:
- the medical board did begin an investigation into the allegations against Dr. Strauss in July 1996
- the medical board staff administratively closed the case in January 2002 without any action
- medical board investigators identified physicians in 1996 who may have failed to report Strauss’ behavior, which is required by law, but those physicians were never investigated and that case was closed as well
- neither the university nor the medical board notified law enforcement
The Ohio State University’s (OSU) attorneys hired Perkins Coie law firm to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct by Dr. Strauss, as well as allegations the university knew about the abuse and yet failed to act. Perkins Coie’s report became public on May 15, 2019 and the governor created his working group five days later.
The investigators for Perkins Coie found at least 177 male student-patients were sexually abused by Strauss. They also confirmed OSU knew about the doctor’s behavior in 1979 and failed to take any action until 1996. During those decades, Strauss had access to both student athletes as a team physician with the Athletic Department and the general student population as a physician in OSU’s Student Health Center. The report states the university removed Strauss from his positions as a doctor with the Athletic and Student Health Departments, but he maintained his tenured faculty position.
In November 2016, some of the victims came forward and spoke to The Ohio State University Board of Trustees.
Gov. DeWine “called on the State Medical Board of Ohio to conduct a thorough review of all sexual assault allegations against physicians and other licensed medical personnel that were investigated and closed without action over the past 25 years.”
“The examination of these cases will be a major undertaking, but it’s the right thing to do,” he added. “We cannot risk that there are other sexual assault cases that were mishandled and other predator physicians still practicing medicine.”
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Photo “Mike DeWine” by NBC 4.