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What you need to know about North Kingstown High School Coach Aaron Thomas and the ‘fat test’ issue

North Kingstown High School basketball coach Aaron Thomas during a game. He has been accused of conducting inappropriate “body fat tests.”Paul J. Spetrini/The Independent Newspaper

Former NKHS student-athletes say basketball coach Aaron Thomas had them strip naked so he could conduct “fat tests” near their genitals. Now, the attorney general is investigating. Catch up on the story here, with earlier reporting as well as the latest news from the lawyers, school administrators, parents, and victims.

The latest: ‘I don’t buy for a second the coaches didn’t know’: Former students wonder why no one stopped coach Aaron Thomas and ‘fat tests’

By Amanda Milkovits

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — There’s no debate about what happened for more than 25 years at North Kingstown High School.

Whether it happened in a narrow equipment closet off the locker room in the old high school, or a small windowless office with CCTV video screens in the new high school, the celebrated boys basketball coach, Aaron Thomas, was asking male student athletes to strip naked, alone in a room with him, so he could conduct “fat tests” on their teenage bodies.

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He’d give them an out, one that few of the students felt they could actually take: He’d ask them, “Are you shy or not shy?” victims told the Globe. If they answered “shy,” they were allowed to keep their underwear on. Most, however, felt pressured to say they were not shy. And most, former student-athletes say now, still wonder why no one stopped him.

“I don’t buy for a second the coaches didn’t know,” said one former student-athlete, who said he was fat tested at 14 years old during the early 2000s. “There were coaches in the locker room, on buses, at tryouts. I don’t believe none of them heard of fat tests. It was open — it was around the school my four years.”

The Globe Rhode Island contacted multiple former administrators, teachers, and sports officials who supervised or worked alongside Thomas at North Kingstown High School over the last 30 years. Some are still working at the high school or Davis Middle School, others have moved on to other school districts or retired. Here’s what they had to say. Read more.

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Earlier reporting, in chronological order

Former North Kingstown High School head boys' basketball coach Aaron Thomas appeared on a Feb. 21, 2021, Roundtable episode of The Rhody Runback podcast.Via YouTube

‘Are you shy, or not shy?’ At North Kingstown High School, a well-known basketball coach and a terrible ‘open secret’

By Amanda Milkovits

Former student-athletes at North Kingstown High School say that the body fat tests conducted by longtime basketball coach Aaron Thomas were an uncomfortable open secret that goes back more than 20 years.

Even now, they remember his question: “Are you shy, or not shy?”

That meant Thomas, 54, wanted the teenage boys to go to a small janitor’s closet or the little AV room attached to his office. There, alone with Thomas, they would have to remove their clothes and underwear so Thomas could do a “body fat test,” using skinfold calipers to pinch and explore the skin near their scrotum, their groin, and their buttocks, some of Thomas’ former players told The Boston Globe in multiple interviews over the past several months. Some said he would also ask them to do stretches or “duck walks” while naked. One alleged that Thomas did a “hernia check.” Read more.

Why was coach Aaron Thomas hired at Monsignor Clarke School after being forced to resign from North Kingstown?

By Amanda Milkovits

The Diocese of Providence said it had no idea that its new middle school social studies teacher at Monsignor Clarke School in South Kingstown, who was hired just this fall, had been forced to resign from North Kingstown High School in June over allegations of performing “body fat tests” on the groins of naked teenage boys.

A spokesman for the Diocese told the Globe on Saturday that the principal at North Kingstown High School had given longtime teacher and basketball coach Aaron Thomas a “positive, professional” reference —and he wouldn’t have been hired if they’d known he was under investigation. Read more.

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Monsignor Clarke fires former North Kingstown High basketball coach Aaron Thomas

By Amanda Milkovits

Monsignor Clarke school principal Arthur Lisi announced in a email to the school’s community that they have fired Aaron Thomas, the former North Kingstown High School basketball coach accused of conducting inappropriate “fat tests” on naked male student athletes for more than two decades.

“I want to let you know that Mr. Thomas was terminated today,” Lisi wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Globe. “We currently have a full-time substitute teacher in the classroom and are working to find a certified social studies teacher.” Read more.

North Kingstown School officials told coach Aaron Thomas to stop private ‘body fat tests’ in 2018′

By Amanda Milkovits

School officials told high school boys’ basketball coach Aaron Thomas to stop conducting “body fat tests” on students alone in his office back in 2018, the school committee acknowledged Saturday after a six-hour meeting behind closed doors.

As protesters rallied outside, school committee members met to discuss “investigative proceedings,” “job performance,” and “potential litigation” over allegations that Thomas, had for more than 20 years urged male student athletes to strip naked for “body fat tests” he conducted on them in a small room off of his office. Read more.

North Kingstown School Committee member Jennifer Lima, second right, reads a statement outside the central administration building, before holding a closed door session Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in North Kingstown, R.I. (Stew Milne for The Boston Globe)Stew Milne/Stew Milne for The Boston Globe

People are screaming at me, ‘What if it was your kid?’ Well, it was my kid.’

By Amanda Milkovits

Jennifer Lima, a new member of the School Committee, had voted in February to fire veteran basketball coach and teacher Aaron Thomas for conducting private “body fat tests” on naked teenage male athletes.

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Then, the allegations hit home.

In late October, when the accusations against Thomas became public — along with the phrase he used to coax boys into taking off their underwear, “Are you shy or not shy?”— Lima told the Globe that her oldest son revealed to her for the first time that it had happened to him, too.

“People are screaming at me, [holding] the signs ‘What if it was your kid?’ " Lima said in an interview. “Well, it was my kid. It shouldn’t matter if it was my kid or someone else’s kid.… We need to make sure it’s no one else’s kid.” Read more.

By Amanda Milkovits

The lawyer for former North Kingston high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas told the Globe late Thursday that he has “300 signed consent forms spanning 10+ years,” from teen male athletes and their parents allowing Thomas to perform body-composition tests.

However, the “weight testing agreement” he shared with the Globe on Thursday does not detail how the testing would be performed, and does not disclose that the student-athletes would be asked to be fully nude. Read more.

’The first time I fat tested was 13 years old’: Lawyer shares documents from former student-athletes about North Kingstown coach Aaron Thomas

By Amanda Milkovits

The lawyer for several former student-athletes at North Kingstown High School disputed the School Committee’s statement that school officials didn’t know until last February that basketball coach Aaron Thomas had been conducting naked “fat tests” on teenage boys for more than 20 years.

Providence lawyer Timothy Conlon said Friday that he released redacted emails from a former student-athlete, another student-athlete’s fat-test data, and a statement in response to the School Committee’s request for information. He pointed out that the statement shows that former students reported incidents to North Kingstown officials in 2018.

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Then, on Feb. 12, 2021, another former student emailed deputy superintendent Denise Mancieri, saying the fat testing had started when he was about 13. Conley shared those emails publicly on Friday. The former student had previously shared them with the Globe.

“I’m writing to you because I can no longer stay silent about the trauma I was subjected to by Aaron Thomas,” the former student wrote. “Every month for my entire time at NKHS Thomas brought me into his office (protected by CCTV) and asked me to get naked, then touched me all over my body. He did this to dozens if not hundreds of boys over a ~10 year period to my knowledge.”

“The first time I fat tested was 13 years old,” he wrote in another email. Read more.

People protesting North Kingstown superintendent Phil Auger hold up signs during a North Kingstown school committee meeting at North Kingstown High School in North Kingstown, Rhode Island on November 16, 2021. Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

North Kingstown superintendent breaks silence on Aaron Thomas fat tests: ‘I acted appropriately’

By Brian Amaral

Addressing the public directly for the first time since revelations that high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas conducted naked “fat tests” on athletes, the embattled superintendent of schools on Tuesday defended his actions as questions continued to swirl about who knew what, when.

Phil Auger said at a North Kingstown school committee meeting that he was informed twice about Thomas’ body fat tests, once in 2018 and again in 2021. In the case in 2018, the former student said he was not naked at the time, but felt the tests were unusual, Auger said.

“In both of these instances, I recognized the seriousness of the matter, and I acted appropriately and immediately in the best interest of students, past and present, with the information I had at the time,” Auger said at the meeting, held at the North Kingstown High School auditorium. Read more.

Lawyer for former North Kingstown student athletes files legal action over ‘body fat’ test records taken by Aaron Thomas

By Brian Amaral

A lawyer for former North Kingstown High School athletes has filed a court action over former high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas’ removal of records from the school.

John MacDonald, Thomas’ lawyer, confirmed that a lawyer for the former student athletes, Timothy Conlon, had filed a writ of replevin — a type of legal action that seeks to have someone return something that belongs to someone else.

But, MacDonald said, the records in question have already been returned to the North Kingstown School Department, at the request of a laywer for the North Kingstown schools, who said they were the department’s property. MacDonald said he returned them himself, but declined to say when. Read more.

Why didn’t more students speak out against North Kingstown coach Aaron Thomas?

By Amanda Milkovits

The director of the Center for Nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital said that the naked body-fat tests that former North Kingstown High School basketball coach Aaron Thomas performed on teenage boys were “overly invasive and inappropriate.” But even so, it can be difficult for students — especially boys — to confront a powerful coach.

Dr. Christopher Duggan, a pediatric gastroenterologist and nutrition physician at Boston Children’s Hospital and a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, told the Globe that there’s no reason for people to be unclothed during these types of tests.

“Is there any validity with having people take all their clothes off so you can measure skinfold and thigh circumference? No. I think that’s the key issue here,” Duggan said. Read more.

North Kingstown Town Council votes to hire outside counsel to review investigation of coach Aaron Thomas

By Amanda Milkovits

During the Nov. 29 meeting, a parent alleged that her sons had been subjected to the coach’s naked “fat testing” of student-athletes — and that it continued even after he was told to stop in 2018.

Kim Lanowy said her sons, who graduated in 2019 and 2021, wanted to play basketball. They told her that other student-athletes considered the body-fat testing something they had to do. “They said, ‘This is the guy who does the body fat tests, when he tells you that you have to be naked, you have to,’” she told the Globe on Monday.

Lanowy was one of several residents urging the town council Monday night to hire outside counsel to either conduct a separate investigation into Thomas or analyze the renewed external investigation by the school committee. Read More.

Subpoenas served against North Kingstown School Department and coach Aaron Thomas

By Amanda Milkovits

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The lawyer for former student-athletes accusing high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas of conducting naked body-fat tests served subpoenas on Tuesday against the school department and Thomas for a wide range of documents and computer records.

Lawyer Timothy J. Conlon is asking the school department to turn over all of the records tendered by Thomas or his lawyer that involve students at the high school, fat testing, and the Canton, Mass. company Athletic IQ, as well as any communication he had with students, and records in his computer at his home or office related to his employment in North Kingstown.

The subpoenas, which were filed in court Wednesday, precede a hearing on Friday on a civil complaint and writ of replevin against Thomas before Judge Sarah Taft-Carter in Washington County Superior Court.

Thomas, who was served a subpoena at his family’s home in North Kingstown, denied having any records, according to court documents filed Wednesday morning. Through his new lawyer, Timothy Dodd of Providence, Thomas is asking for the complaint to be dismissed. Read More.

North Kingstown School Committee member recuses herself on Aaron Thomas matter because son had been fat-tested by Thomas

By Amanda Milkovits

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The School Committee member who told the Globe last month that high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas had performed naked fat tests on her then-teenage son, has decided to recuse herself from any further involvement in the matter.

Jennifer Lima, who voted to terminate Thomas in February, said she made her decision to recuse after receiving input from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

“I do not think that I have a conflict of interest,” she said in a statement posted on her campaign’s Facebook page Thursday evening. “But in order to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety I have come to believe this is the right course of action.” Read more.

Judge orders former North Kingstown coach Aaron Thomas to turn over records related to fat testing

By Amanda Milkovits

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown School Department has agreed to give a lawyer for several former student-athletes all records, videos, computer files, and documents related to former high school basketball coach Aaron Thomas within 45 days.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter signed a consent order, after the school’s lawyer, Mary Ann Carroll, and lawyer Timothy J. Conlon reached an agreement, according to documents filed in court Friday. The school department is agreeing to preserve the records, while redacting information that identifies students.

Conlon is asking the school department to turn over all of the records tendered by Thomas or his lawyers, civil attorney Timothy Dodd and criminal attorney John E. MacDonald, that involve students at the high school, fat testing, and the Canton, Mass. company Athletic IQ, as well as any communication he had with students, and records in his computer at his home or office related to his employment in North Kingstown.

“Thomas moved communications about school business off the school system and through private servers, and created his own net work for communicating with students about body fat testing,” Conlon told the Globe outside the courthouse Friday. He said that he has been in communication with more people regarding Thomas’s actions, including students who said they had been fat tested as recently as 2020. Read more.

PODCAST: How did a coach’s naked ‘body fat’ tests go on for 25 years?

By Edward Fitzpatrick

In the latest Rhode Island Report podcast, Globe reporter Amanda Milkovits talks about how a North Kingstown High School basketball coach was able to conduct “body fat” tests on naked students for nearly 25 years. Listen in the player below:

Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or find out more about this episode here: Read more.

The latest: Multiple North Kingstown school officials knew of Aaron Thomas’ ‘fat tests’ for years -- but did not stop him, investigation shows

By Amanda Milkovits

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — An explosive investigative report to be discussed during a North Kingstown School Committee meeting Wednesday evening shows that multiple school officials — administrators, athletic directors, and coaches — were aware for years that former North Kingstown High School Basketball Coach Aaron Thomas was conducting “fat tests” alone on male student-athletes, but didn’t stop him.

In June 2017, according to the report, former athletic director Howie Hague described coming across Thomas alone in his classroom with a male student, who was standing in front of Thomas with only his shorts on. He spoke with both Thomas and the athlete, then described what he had learned to then-principal Denise Mancieri and said, “I’ve got it under control.”

Hague said he told Thomas that testing should be done in the locker room. Several weeks later, Hague said, then-athletic director Dick Fossa told him that the issue had been addressed.

But multiple students and adults acknowledged that it continued for years afterward. While the adults deny knowing anyone was naked, the students say it was an open secret. If Thomas asked if a student was “Shy or not shy?” the student was expected to remove his underwear for the fat testing — though, according to the report, some were permitted to place their hands over their genitals as Thomas pinched the skin of their inner thighs with skin fold calipers.

The 87-page report by lawyer Matthew Oliverio, completed at the request of the school committee, makes plain the authority and esteem that Thomas had among other coaches and administrators — who appeared reluctant to question him. Read more.

North Kingstown School District ‘lost control’ of star coach Aaron Thomas, new federal complaint alleges

By Amanda Milkovits

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Five former high school students who say they were subjected to naked “fat tests” by former North Kingstown High School boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas filed a complaint Monday 1/10 with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, saying school officials ignored his conduct for years.

The complaint from lawyer Timothy J. Conlon alleges that North Kingstown school officials ignored Thomas’ misconduct, failed to report him to the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, stalled in reporting him to the state Department of Education, and allowed Thomas to use his position inappropriately.

“For over twenty years, the Department allowed Mr. Thomas to remain in his coaching and teaching positions while he used those positions 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,” according to the complaint. Read more.