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 a motion for a 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 civil lawyer, Timothy Dodd of Providence, Thomas is asking for the complaint to be dismissed.
Thomas, 54, is under criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office after former athletes going back to the mid-1990s alleged that he had performed “body fat” tests on them while they were naked and alone with him, in either a closet or a small room attached to his office. Some said that he used skin-fold calipers to explore their groin and buttocks, measured their bodies, and had them do stretches while nude. One told the Globe that the fat tests began when he was 14 years old.
Thomas had been a teacher at the high school since 1990, an assistant football coach, the head of the summer sports camps, and the longtime basketball coach, until his resignation in June. The school committee voted unanimously in February to terminate him after hearing complaints that he had performed private “body fat tests” on nude teenage boys.
However, it wasn’t the first time that school officials had received complaints about Thomas. Superintendent Phil Auger has acknowledged that a former student told him in 2018 about the fat tests, although Auger said there was no mention of nudity. Although Auger said Thomas was told to stop, a mother told the Globe on Monday that her sons said the coach was still performing the private fat tests when they graduated in 2019 and 2021.
Since the accusations became public in late October, Thomas has been fired from his new job as a teacher at Monsignor Clarke School, a Catholic school in South Kingstown, the school committee has reopened an external investigation, and the town council has hired a retired judge to review the investigations.
Providence criminal lawyer John E. MacDonald, who has represented Thomas, told the Globe two weeks ago that Thomas had consent forms signed by teenage male athletes and their parents allowing Thomas to perform body-composition tests.
The “weight testing agreement” signed by parents and students does not specify how the tests were to be conducted or that students would be nude.
MacDonald said that Thomas had conducted fat tests of teenage boys in the nude, because “it was simply quicker to do with underwear not in the way.” However, the director of the Center for Nutrition at Boston Children’s Hospital told the Globe that such naked body-fat tests were “overly invasive and inappropriate,” and there was no reason for nudity.
MacDonald said that Thomas took more than “300 signed consent forms spanning 10+ years” when he cleaned out his office earlier this year. “I’m glad he did. He thought he might need them, because he was under investigation,” MacDonald said at the time.
Conlon is alleging that the consent forms are considered educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and should not have been removed from the school. MacDonald has said that he has since returned the forms to the school department, on the request of the department’s lawyer.
Conlon is also seeking copies of all communication between the school department and Thomas, or his lawyer, regarding obtaining or returning those materials, as well as an inventory of anything Thomas took and what the school got back.
Conlon’s requests for records connected to Athletic IQ have revived an old scandal in the North Kingstown High School sports department.
Athletic IQ refers to a company in Canton, Mass., founded in 2006 by a former NFL scout, that tested high-school athletes’ physical skills, as a way to market them for college scholarships.
The company’s intent was to create a comprehensive computer database of athletes across the country, using standardized testing of their body fat, speed, agility, flexibility, strength, and hand-eye coordination, according to a 2009 article in The Providence Journal.
Keith Kenyon, a former North Kingstown High School athletic director who was also Thomas’ boss, took leave from the high school in 2006 to work as vice president for Athletic IQ. Thomas was listed on a schedule for Athletic IQ tests of athletes.
Kenyon had written to an athletic official that he had been testing players at North Kingstown since 1991, according to the Journal.
Kenyon returned to the school a year later, though he continued work as a consultant on other businesses, and resigned in August 2009, as the school administration received preliminary results of an audit into alleged spending abuses.
Kenyon is now principal at Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans, Mass.