Fired Ohio State band director sues, alleging discrimination

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 26, 2014 5:14 PM

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Ohio State University band director, fired for allegedly failing to eliminate a sexually hostile environment, sued school officials on Friday, claiming they discriminated against him because he's a man.

Jonathan Waters' federal complaint seeks $1 million in damages.

"Waters was not provided due process and fairness protections that The Ohio State University has routinely extended to female participants in Title IX sexual harassment investigations," attorney David Axelrod said in a statement on Friday.

Waters was fired in July after a two-month investigation prompted by a parent complaint found he was aware of a "sexualized culture" in the band. A 92-page report cited band traditions of assigning sexually explicit nicknames and band members being forced to march in their underwear.

Ohio State, located in Columbus, said the suit was without merit.

"Ohio State embraces the opportunity to respond to the baseless attacks of the past two months in a forum we know will vindicate the facts and the integrity underlying the University's decision," said OSU spokesman Chris Davey.

The band's 4,000-member alumni group TBDBITL - an acronym for "The Best Damn Band In The Land" - conducted its own investigation and released a report in September exonerating Waters.

Jim Petro, a former Ohio Attorney General, is among the attorneys representing Waters. He said in a statement that the university should have offered Waters, a public employee, a "name-clearing hearing."

Waters has said he sought to change the band's decades-old, quasi-military culture of hazing during his 20 months as director.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Sandra Maler)