NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — When he left North Kingstown High School in February 2021 while under investigation for performing naked “fat tests” on teenage boys, basketball coach Aaron Thomas took with him reams of documents with information about students he’d coached during his more than 30 years at the school, according to court filings late Wednesday.
Not just the 300 or so “weight testing agreements” that one of his lawyers told the Globe about last November. Those consent forms, signed by parents and the teens, gave Thomas permission to perform body-composition tests, but didn’t disclose that the student-athletes would be asked to be fully nude.
Thomas had more.
The documents included:
- Boys basketball candidates from 2003-2004, including their contact information and dates of birth.
- A “progress report failure list” of classes taken by a senior in October 2006.
- The names and contacts for students in the JV basketball and freshman boys basketball teams in 2002-2003 and 2004-2005.
- Physical evaluations of boys ages 11 to 16 in the North Kingstown sports camp in 2003.
- A chart from March 2004 of boys basketball individual final stats.
- Physical evaluations of an individual student as well as the roster of boys JV Varsity basketball testing.
And that is just a sample of what Thomas turned over to lawyer Timothy J. Conlon, who is representing three of the former student-athletes accusing the former coach of performing “body fat” tests on them while they were naked and alone with him in his office.
Conlon said Thomas shouldn’t have taken any of those records with him when he was terminated.
“I don’t think anybody is going to credibly suggest that an educator is terminated and resigns during an investigation and [gets to] take original educational records out of the school,” Conlon said Thursday. “No parent is going to want to think if a teacher is let go that they can hold onto in perpetuity their child’s private information.”
Conlon contends that Thomas had violated state rules on coach athletic records and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by taking these documents, which wouldn’t be considered public records. The lawyer said Thursday that he will contact the Rhode Island Department of Education and the North Kingstown School Department and inform them about the records.
“Records indicating what classes students are deficient in, who their advisors are, what their dates of birth are, and what they can bench press are not public records and not documents that should be in the possession of a former School Department employee in their personal capacity,” Conlon wrote in a memorandum filed at Washington County Superior Court late Wednesday in support of a claim of replevin.
However, Thomas’ civil lawyer, Timothy Dodd of Providence, said the documents were just general records from Thomas’ coaching career. “They are rather standard documents that don’t suggest anything inappropriate and don’t have confidential material contained in them,” Dodd said Thursday. “Aaron Thomas vehemently denies the allegations being thrown around against him.”
Thomas in November 2021 had initially denied that he had any documents. Then in January, Dodd, Thomas turned over troves of documents he’d collected on students he’d coached. Thomas filed an affidavit on Wednesday denying that he had anything else.
Dodd said that Thomas wasn’t hiding anything; it wasn’t clear whether Thomas had taken these documents from his office or forgot that he still had them.
“It’s our position that upon his separation from North Kingstown School Department that he turned back everything he presumed was in his possession,” Dodd said. “The documents we were able to locate were of minimal significance in light of the allegations that Mr. Conlon and his clients are attempting to make against my client.”
The school department hasn’t pursued the documents, which “would suggest that they don’t see any imminent danger of documents being destroyed or missing or anything nefarious going on,” Dodd said.
Conlon said that the School Department’s lawyer, Mary Ann Carroll, was surprised by what Thomas had. In his memo, Conlon wrote that Carroll confirmed that she didn’t provide those documents, or any others, to Thomas’ lawyers, “and that the School Department did not knowingly release to or authorize Defendant to take possession of these records.”
The names of other students were redacted by Thomas or Dodd, Conlon said. However, it shows that the former coach had the records of other students — “and it’s apparent that Thomas is in possession of records that he shouldn’t have,” Conlon said.
He said the discovery “obliged” him to tell the court, the school department, and state education officials that Thomas had these documents. Conlon wrote that he will leave it up to those officials “to determine how the education records of other students that are in [Thomas’] possession should be treated.”
Thomas, 54, is under criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office and North Kingstown police, as multiple former student-athletes have come forward about the naked fat tests they were subjected to over the last 25 years. One told the Globe that the fat tests began when he was 13 years old.
Thomas would 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 endured having Thomas touch them with skin-fold calipers on their groins, upper thighs, and buttocks, or having them do stretches while naked.
After the School Committee voted unanimously in February 2021 to terminate him, Thomas resigned in June 2021 and was quickly hired by Monsignor Clarke School in nearby South Kingstown. The Catholic school fired him in early November 2021, soon after the most-recent allegations surfaced.
Five former high school students also filed a complaint in January with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, accusing school officials of ignoring Thomas’ misconduct and allowing him to use his position inappropriately. The complaint, also filed by Conlon, alleges that the school department failed to report Thomas to the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families and delayed reporting him to the state Department of Education.
Conlon had issued a subpoena against Thomas and the School Department for the records in anticipation of litigation. In December, a Superior Court judge signed a consent order for the School Department to turn over all records, videos, computer files, and documents involving the three former athletes and Thomas.
Amanda Milkovits can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.