The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) plans to order sweeping changes to the University of Southern California’s (USC) Title IX practices after the school “failed to protect students” from sexual abuse by former employee Dr. George Tyndall, according to a resolution agreement released Thursday.
On May 24, 2018, OCR began an investigation, for which it assessed more than 20,000 pages of documents and interviewed over 90 current and former university staff members as well as former student patients.
“In terms of the numbers of witnesses interviewed, generally speaking, this has been one of our biggest cases and one of the most disturbing,” said Mark Mansour, deputy press secretary at the Department of Education.
From 2000 to 2009, USC was made aware of possible misconduct by Tyndall but failed to investigate. During pelvic examinations, patients and staff said that Tyndall made inappropriate remarks about patients’ bodies.
USC also failed to act after more complaints and concerns were raised in 2016. Patients found that Tyndall conducted pelvic examinations without gloves and performed full-body skin checks. That year, the university also discovered over 200 photographs of patients’ genitals in Tyndall’s office, which had been taken from 1989 to 2010. However, he was still able to work with patients for a day and a half after the school’s discovery of the photographs, according to a press release.
“This total and complete failure to protect students is heartbreaking and inexcusable,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a statement. “Too many at USC turned a blind eye to evidence that Dr. Tyndall was preying on students for years. We are grateful to every survivor who came forward to share their story with our OCR investigators. Because of your bravery, we can now work with the University to ensure this never happens to another student on USC’s campus.”
Under the resolution agreement, OCR will continue to review current and former employees in order to determine whether appropriate actions were taken to handle the misconduct. USC’s compliance will also be observed over the next three years, the press release said.
“What we have found at USC is shocking and reprehensible,” said assistant secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus in a statement. “No student should ever have to face the disgusting behavior that USC students had to deal with. I am pleased that President Folt is now committing to major changes, and we will closely monitor the University to make sure that it complies with our agreement.”