Accountability Must Be Personal

Allegations such as those that some Ohio State University students were sexually abused by those in positions of authority and/or trust invariably spawn many lawsuits. Those harmed understandably want some compensation for their suffering — and they want someone to be punished for it.

When such lawsuits are filed against government or publicly funded institutions, they often run up against an obstacle. That is occurring in regard to a lawsuit by three women who were members of the OSU diving team.

They say their former coach, Will Bohonyi, sexually abused them and exploited them in other ways. Their attorneys have filed suits against Bohonyi, USA Diving and OSU.

University officials say that when they learned of the accusations, they notified police, investigated and fired Bohonyi in 2014.

Now, the OSU Diving Club is asking a federal judge to dismiss it from the lawsuit. The club’s argument is that it is part of the university and, under a doctrine known as sovereign immunity, cannot be sued without its consent.

Sovereign immunity applies to many government and publicly funded entities. It is based on the idea that any damages or settlements in lawsuits would have to be paid by taxpayers, not those guilty of misconduct or negligence.

That is reasonable, but it reinforces the importance of holding the guilty individuals accountable. That includes not just those who committed crimes, but also officials who knew of the offenses and failed to take decisive action.

None of them should be able to escape severe punishment, both financial and, if merited, in prison, for what amounts to aiding and abetting predators.


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