The Rhode Island U.S. Attorney's Office is now investigating a civil rights complaint related to reports of a coach conducting “fat tests” on nude student-athletes for years.
A lawyer representing former North Kingstown High School students filed a complaint with the state’s U.S. Attorney's office Monday, alleging the school violated the students' civil rights by allowing former boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas to conduct the “fat tests” for more than 20 years, The Providence Journal reported.
In a statement Monday, U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha told the Journal “our office can confirm that we have received a complaint and that we are conducting a civil investigation of the North Kingstown School Department, pursuant to federal civil rights laws.”
Five former students alleged in the complaint that the department allowed Thomas to remain in his coaching and teaching positions while he used his position “to groom students into the widespread acceptance of his practices, portraying the 'fat tests' and various other practices that involved naked inspection and touching of children as necessary and useful to the athletic evaluation and performance of the young students and student athletes under his supervision, when in fact they were neither.”
The complaint also alleges that school officials did not report as required Thomas’ actions to the state Department of Children, Youth and Families and Department of Education until years after the incidents occurred.
Thomas resigned last year as he was about to be fired. Attorneys for the former students wrote that Thomas was “allowed to quietly resign” and questions about his status were answered with: “out with an undisclosed medical issue.”
Thomas has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.
Thomas became widely respected during more than two decades as a coach at North Kingstown for his success, which helped earn the school’s first-ever state championship in 2019.
Two years after that season, Thomas was out at North Kingstown, quietly taking a new job at a middle school in a neighboring town, WPRI-TV reported.
In a confidential report that was only released only after a public-records request, a lawyer hired by the school district, Matthew Oliverio, found that Thomas met with student athletes alone in his office.
Oliverio reviewed emails and statements provided to police and interviewed 13 people. Oliverio highlighted one allegation from a former student that he suggested stood out from all the others, saying the student “does not mince words when he claims that since the age of 13, he was sexually molested by Mr. Thomas on a quarterly basis during his high school years.”
The civil rights complaint alleges that Thomas’ manipulation of students continued through at least 2020.
“The department lost all control over communication and boundaries as they relate to Thomas and his students, and lost control of the students’ educational and personal privacy,” attorney Timothy Conlon wrote, as reported by The Providence Journal.
Conlon said Thomas openly used his private email and text messages "to facilitate appointments for naked 'testing' and scheduled students to be examined between and indeed during classes. He obtained students’ personal, as opposed to student email addresses, created private, offline chain emails and formed group texts with dozens of students at a time."
A criminal investigation by the state attorney general’s office is ongoing.