Federal judge allows fired band director's civil rights suit against Ohio State to go forward

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A band director fired by Ohio State University for allowing a "sexualized culture" within its celebrated marching band may move forward with his civil rights lawsuit against the school, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge James Graham denied Ohio State's request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Jonathan Waters, who was fired last summer after an internal investigation found that he turned a blind eye to the band's culture of raunchy, profane and suggestive traditions and mishandled sexual discrimination allegations.

Waters' suit accused the university, President Michael Drake and a provost of discriminating against him. He said they denied him due process and disciplined him differently than a female employee. His lawsuit seeks reinstatement and $1 million in damages.

The judge ruled that the university didn't violate Waters' due process rights but said the lawsuit could proceed on the grounds of reverse discrimination.

The university said in a statement that it was grateful Waters' due process claims were dismissed. "As for Mr. Waters' sole remaining claim, that he was terminated because he is a man, we look forward to providing the factual support to enable early dismissal of that claim as well at the next opportunity presented by the proceedings," spokesman Chris Davey said in the emailed statement.

"We're very pleased that Judge Graham saw the potential merit in our reverse-discrimination claim," said Waters' attorney, David Axelrod. "We've said all along that Jon was treated very unfairly by Ohio State, and we're anxious to start talking to the witnesses and getting to the truth."

Waters, hired as director in 2012, was known for revolutionizing the band's halftime shows. The morphing and dancing creations he designed on iPads drew hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and landed the band known to fans as The Best Damn Band in The Land in an Apple commercial.

He was fired in July after the internal investigation.

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