Two assistant cheerleading coaches were fired in May for “sufficient evidence” of sexual harassment, but one former cheerleader’s lawyer said the terminations should not stop there.
John Camillus, the attorney of former OSU cheerleader Cody Ellis, wrote in a Wednesday email addressed to OSU athletic director Gene Smith that he believes Smith should fire head coach Lenee Buchman and allow his client to return to the team.
“It is time for someone with authority, common sense, and at least a modicum of moral courage to do the right thing — terminate Ms. Buchman and immediately reinstate Cody Ellis to the cheerleading squad,” Camillus wrote in the email, of which he sent a copy to The Lantern.
Camillus also stated in the email he believes there are “three different aspects of head coach Lenee Buchman’s misconduct that should have caused OSU to terminate her.
“First, she either permitted or fostered the sexually hostile and inappropriate cheerleading environment reflected in the results of the Bumbrey-Hollins investigation,” Camillus wrote.
He listed the second reason as Buchman’s failure to report Ellis’ sexual harassment complaints and the third as her kicking Ellis off of the cheerleading team.
Following an investigation by OSU, former assistant coaches Eddie Hollins and Dana Bumbrey were terminated May 23 “for cause” according to letters to each coach from Kim Heaton, the director of human resources for the OSU athletic department, which were obtained by The Lantern Nov. 7 to fill a public records request filed Aug. 30.
“The university conducted a complete and thorough investigation and found that the behaviors of Hollins and Bumbrey were inconsistent with university values and violated university policies,” OSU spokesman Gary Lewis told The Lantern Sunday. “Based on those findings, the university determined that their conduct warranted termination.”
In addition to her position at OSU, Buchman is also employed by the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators as its cheerleading coordinator.
Kenneth Baker, the OASSA’s executive director, said Tuesday he does not expect his organization to take any action against Buchman unless OSU were to do so.
“I don’t think unless Ohio State took further action against Lenee that we would necessarily have any reaction,” Baker told The Lantern. “She has been our Cheer Ohio coordinator long before she was even employed by Ohio State, and quite frankly, has done a wonderful job.”
Paul Denton, chief of University Police, said in an email to The Lantern Thursday his department is not currently investigating the former assistant coaches’ sexual harassment because no crime has been reported to police.
Buchman declined to comment on the firings of Bumbrey and Hollins in an interview with The Lantern Aug. 28, and neither she nor Gene Smith have been made available for comment since The Lantern first reported on the investigation Nov. 15.
OSU received an anonymous complaint April 6 that alleged Hollins had specifically harassed male cheerleaders, while Bumbrey had specifically harassed female cheerleaders, according to a case report written by OSU employee and labor relations consultant Kristi Kuhbander that was obtained by The Lantern.
The case report stated both Bumbrey and Hollins made comments and touched student-athletes on the cheerleading team in a way that could be perceived as suggestive and of a sexual nature, and Hollins also admitted to sending suggestive text messages to a male cheerleader.
Camillus said those messages were sent to Ellis July 14, 2012.
During the investigation, Buchman confirmed a male cheerleader reported to her sometime around July 2012 that he had received “inappropriate text messages” from Hollins. Buchman told investigators that after receiving that report from the cheerleader, she addressed Hollins directly and requested he cease sending any personal text messages to students. She did not, however, report the complaint to OSU’s Office of Human Resources.
A June 20 letter to Buchman from Heaton said Buchman “did not follow the proper channels” of reporting the initial complaint from an OSU cheerleader and instead tried to resolve the issues on her own. The letter stated OSU coaches are “required to report any complaints that a reasonable person would believe to be sexual harassment.”
Buchman, who has been OSU’s head coach since 2009, was retained by the university. She was required to attend a sexual education harassment session with her team, which Lewis said was completed July 26.
Ellis, on the other hand, was dismissed from the team, Camillus said.
Camillus said Ellis was told he was removed from the team for having a “bad attitude,” although Ellis reported to OSU he believed his dismissal from the team was in retaliation for his report of Hollins’ sexual harassment.
Lewis told The Lantern in an email Tuesday that OSU “conducted a complete investigation into the allegation that Coach Buchman retaliated against a student in connection with reporting on these matters.”
Lewis said he could not confirm whether that student was Ellis or whether that student was dismissed because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which requires schools to have written permission from a student in order to release information from the student’s educational record to the public.
“The university found no evidence of retaliation by the coach,” Lewis said Tuesday. “Because of FERPA regulations, we cannot discuss additional details of the student’s conduct or his allegations of retaliation at this time without consent from the student. However, we can say that students may be dismissed from athletic teams for a range of reasons. Such dismissals are taken very seriously and any decision to dismiss a student from a team is made only after a careful review of the specific facts and circumstances. That process was followed here.”
Camillus, who said he was hired because Ellis was “concerned about retaliation” and felt it was in Ellis’ best interest for him not to speak with the media, did not allow Ellis to speak to The Lantern. He said his client has “no plans one way or the other” on whether or not to give OSU permission to release those records.
Camillus said, however, he believes it is evident Buchman retaliated against Ellis.
“One such piece of evidence, of course, is that there does not appear to be any indication that Ms. Buchman ever dismissed any other cheerleader for having a negative attitude,” Camillus wrote in his email to Smith.
Buchman received a 1 percent salary raise, to $43,003 from her former salary of $42,577, from OSU Aug. 23, one day after the university announced Steve Chorba and Ray Sharp as the team’s new assistant coaches. That raise was lower than the average raise of 2 percent for the athletic department, Lewis said.