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Unsealed Complaint Details How Ohio State Officials Allegedly Hid Richard Strauss Abuse

Steven Snyder-Hill, who claims he was abused by former Ohio State team doctor Richard Strauss, is now a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Steven Snyder-Hill, who claims he was abused by former Ohio State team doctor Richard Strauss, is now a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school.

A newly-unsealed complaint reveals many Ohio State University administrators took steps to conceal former team doctor Richard Strauss’ abuse of male students and athletes.

A federal judge ordered the 370-page complaint unsealed on Tuesday. The document details what plaintiffs claim was a steady pattern of complaints about Strauss that school administrators ignored or swept under the rug.

The accusers argue at least 50 school officials—coaches, athletic administrators, health officials and even executives—got word of Strauss’ actions but did nothing.

Most troubling, perhaps, are passages in the complaint that demostrate willful steps by officials to hide Strauss’ conduct. 

Dr. Ted Grace led Student Health Services for the university in the 1990s, when lead plaintiff Steve Snyder-Hill raised a complaint about inappropriate touching during an exam he had with Strauss. The court filing alleges Grace intentionally hid those allegations to keep them out of Strauss’ performance evaluation.

“For legal reasons, we would never mention a serious allegation against a physician on their evaluation form, which was a permanent part of their personnel record,” Grace wrote in a 1996 memo to a university lawyer.

Other doctors cited in the filing note that such complaints should have been passed along to the Ohio Medical Board, but weren’t. Later, when Strauss launched his own medical board complaint against Grace, Strauss’ abuse came up in the board investigation.

Grace told board investigators, according to the filing, many athletes had complained about Strauss, describing the number as “three, four, five, six, whatever.”

The complaint also alleges Ohio State broke with standard procedure in its handling of a 1996 disciplinary hearing that led to Strauss’ dismissal from Student Health Services. The hearing was not documented, which would have been standard procedure.

The complaint also notes that students allegedly harmed by Strauss were not informed about the proceeding, and other departments like Athletics were kept in the dark about its conclusions. 

Although Strauss was dropped from Student Health Services, he was allowed to remain with the university as a tenured professor, and was even recommended for emeritus status when he retired about a year later.  The complaint alleges Randall Harris, acting director of the School of Public Health, and Ronald St. Pierre, Vice Dean of the College of Medicine, recommended the honor despite being aware of complaints against the doctor.

Strauss, who died in 2005, maintained his emeritus status until the school revoked it in 2019.

An independent investigation last year found that Strauss "sexually abused at least 177 male student-patients he was charged with treating as a University physician," but lawyers say the real number is double that. Investigators also concluded that school personnel knew about accusations against Strauss as early as 1979, but failed to properly respond for two decades.

Last October, Ohio State reported more than 1,500 instances where Strauss sexually assaulted students, based on reporting from survivors.

And in May, Ohio State paid about $41 million to settle lawsuits with dozens of Strauss' accusers, accounting for about half of the men suing the school. For the rest of the accusers, including Snyder-Hill, the school has said it "remains committed to a resolution with plaintiffs, including a monetary resolution."

Read the full complaint below.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.