WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue University has been named in two new lawsuits over a summer 2017 nutritional study with reports of fondling, voyeurism, battery and rape.
Camp Dash was shut down early that summer after police reports of fights and sexual harassment among campers. The study was intended to study children's diets and its effects on hypertension. The students, ages 11 to 15, were put in campus housing.
The lawsuits, both filed Monday by two different parties, ask for damages caused from Camp DASH. The lawsuit names Purdue University, Indiana University, Indiana University School of Medicine and Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.
In the first lawsuit, the parent, identified as A. Herrick, claims their child, identified as D.S.E., was attacked by other participants and burned with hot stones. Herrick said D.S.E was "subjected to viewing incidents of physical violence by and against participants, as well as threats of harm from participants in Research Project Dash." She said it included fighting, alleged weapon threats, battery of 11-year-old child and assault on a counselor.
The lawsuit alleges there was inadequate staffing during the research project, and at times there was a ratio of "only one staff person per twenty child participants." Herrick claims the staff members were inadequately trained and some didn't attend training prior to the sessions.
Then during the second session, between July 12 and when it was shut down on July 20, the lawsuit alleges more sexual misconduct and physical violence occurred.
Documents show on July 12, a male participant made sexual advances toward a female lab technician. A parent reported the sexual advances to Principal Investigator for Research Project Dash Dr. Connie Weaver.
Then on July 17, the lawsuit claims a female participant "attempted to pull down the pants of a male child of Research Project Dash and attempted to 'stick her fingers in his anus.'" Court documents say this was not reported to police until July 24.
The second lawsuit, filed by P. Lopes for child R.K.P, claimed more violence. RK.P. said they were with "Camper 119" on June 15. Court documents said "Camper 202" grabbed camper 119 by the neck and choked him, demanding his keys or he would continue. R.K.P. claimed there was no adult supervision.
The lawsuits were filed by attorney J. Kevin King, who is requesting a jury trial.
In Oct. 2018, the family of another camper sued Purdue for causing "substantial emotional trauma." The family said the girl was filmed in the shower without her knowledge by another camper, and the video was posted to social media.
Camp Dash, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, hosted the children in campus housing in the summer of 2017. The $8.8 million study was paid for in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The camp was shut down early after university administrators found out about allegations on July 19. Purdue President Mitch Daniels appointed Alysa Christmas Rollock, Purdue’s vice president for ethics and compliance, to lead a review and assessment.
Daniels said the assessment showed that, in the case of the DASH study, “there were serious flaws in the study’s implementation, which led to the discipline and management issues that ultimately led to its closure.”
Purdue University declined to comment on this story.