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Judge Rules Ohio State Didn't Defame Fired Marching Band Director

Jonathan Waters
Nick Houser
/
WOSU
Former Ohio State Marching Band director Jon Waters

A state court has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by fired Ohio State University marching band director Jonathan Waters.

The Court of Claims on Tuesday rejected Waters' claims that the school's statements surrounding his dismissal were slanderous and defamatory and invaded his privacy. A judge says Waters became a limited-purpose public figure once an internal investigation uncovered a "sexualized culture" within the celebrated band.

He noted Ohio State was compelled to investigate after a parent complained of inappropriate behavior. The court says that Ohio State had the right to explain its findings and that officials based their statements and releases on truth.

Waters contended band rituals and practices pre-existed his tenure and his reputation was unjustifiably harmed by misguided attacks.

In a statement, Ohio State officials said they're grateful the court has agreed with the university.

"We have maintained from the beginning that the university acted properly in its handling of the Marching Band investigation and the reform of the band’s culture, and that this case was without merit."

In a written statement, Waters said, "I maintain that I was the catalyst for change, and was recognized by university administrators for those efforts.” Waters says he is looking into his possible legal options. 

Heidelberg University hired Waters as its band director and a music education professor in April. He started his new position at the private university in Tiffin on July 1.