Feds probe USC’s handling of sex harassment claims

The US Department of Education has announced a federal investigation into how the University of Southern California handled sexual harassment claims against Dr. George Tyndall, a former gynecologist at the school’s student health center.

The department said its Office for Civil Rights “will assess USC’s response to reports and complaints of sexual harassment during pelvic exams as early as 1990.that were not fully investigated by the university until spring 2016 and that the university did not disclose to OCR during an earlier investigation.”

“No student should ever endure sexual harassment or abuse while trying to pursue their education,” US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a press release.

Rick Caruso, chairman of the USC Board of Trustees, said the university “will fully cooperate” with the inquiry, saying “we welcome the US Department of Education’s investigation.”

Fifty-two former patients of the gynecologist have reported they may have been victims of inappropriate and possibly criminal behavior, police said last month.

Police estimate Tyndall may have seen 10,000 patients. They think there could be more victims among women who were examined by Tyndall.

The initial reports span from about 1990 to 2016, roughly the same time Tyndall was at the school in Los Angeles, Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg said.

Tyndall is being sued by several former patients, who accuse him of sexual misconduct and using racist language.

Tyndall was fired in 2017 for inappropriate behavior, according to USC. University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.

CNN could not reach Tyndall for comment.

But he has told the Los Angeles Times, “I have never had any sexual urges” toward patients. He also described his examinations as thorough and appropriate. Tyndall told the newspaper his use of fingers had “a legitimate medical purpose” and said some of his comments to patients were misinterpreted.

University of Southern California President C. L. Max Nikias agreed to step down after current and former students signed an online petition demanding his resignation.