Michigan State, government resolve Nassar civil rights probe

August 12, 2019 - 10:07 am

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University will better protect patients from sexual assaults and take other steps to resolve a federal civil-rights investigation into Larry Nassar's abuse of young gymnasts and other athletes under the guise of medical treatment.

The three-year agreement announced Monday is the first one struck under a section of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits discrimination in certain health care programs or activities, said Roger Severino, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights. The deal covers not only students under Title IX but also patients who are not students.

The university and two associated entities — MSU HealthTeam and MSU Health Care Inc. — will require that a second health professional be present at sensitive medical exams. The school previously instituted a chaperone policy in the wake of the scandal involving its former sports doctor and his abuse of hundreds of girls and women, but Severino said it now must comply or face consequences.

"It's one thing for an institution that has failed repeatedly to police itself to say that they're going to do better this time compared to the federal government, with the ability to strip federal funds in case of repeated noncompliance, coming forward and saying, 'You must now actually implement the proper chaperone policy consistent with best practices,'" Severino said.

When sensitive exams are conducted, patients will be given an appropriate gown, privacy to dress and undress, and sensitive draping to maximize their privacy. MSU and the health entities also will revise their non-discrimination notices and sexual misconduct policies, improve their processes for investigating and resolving complaints, conduct all-staff training and report twice a year to the Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights.

A separate Title IX probe of Michigan State's handling of complaints against Nassar, led by the U.S. Department of Education, is ongoing.

Nassar is effectively serving life in prison for possessing child pornography and molesting young athletes, sometimes when parents were present. He also worked at USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians and is the sport's governing body.

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Check out AP's complete coverage of Larry Nassar and the fallout from his years of sexually abusing girls and women.