NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The former high school athletic director accused last month in a lawsuit of fostering a culture that allowed basketball coach Aaron Thomas to conduct naked “fat tests” of boys has resigned as principal of a middle school on Cape Cod.
The Cape Cod Chronicle first reported the resignation of Keith Kenyon from Nauset Regional Middle School on Friday, two days after the paper published an article about Kenyon’s ties to former North Kingstown High School basketball coach Aaron Thomas.
Nauset Superintendent Brooke Clenchy said Kenyon resigned on Wednesday for “personal reasons.”
“At his request, the school district entered amicable negotiations and arrived at a separation agreement for Mr. Kenyon to leave the district’s employ,” Clenchy said in a statement Friday. “As his resignation was effective immediately, central office administrators have been supporting Assistant Principal Neal Milan and the staff to ensure that all end-of-year learning and events continue as planned.”
Kenyon told the Globe in a statement Friday that he decided to retire because the North Kingstown situation had become a distraction that he didn’t want to bring to Nauset Regional Middle School.
“As many already know, there is a very public situation in my former school district in RI. Some former athletes have made allegations of wrongful conduct by a former coach whom I supervised before I came to Nauset in 2010,” Kenyon said. “While I have done nothing wrong — and am horrified by what that coach apparently did — I have been dragged into the matter both legally and in the media.”
“Even though an investigator found that the coach concealed his activities and the wrongful way he conducted BMI was not known to any administrator until June 2017, which was eight years after I left North Kingstown, this situation has taken a toll on me in both my personal and professional lives. I tried to keep them separate, but that is not possible,” he continued. “The distraction of this case is one that I do not want to bring to NRMS, one that is too large to deal with while trying to give this school and the students and families of NRMS my very best, as I have always sought to do. As such, I decided to retire and, therefore, submitted my resignation. I am sad to go, but I think it is the best thing for my family and me personally as well as for the school and the students and families.”
One of the former student-athletes from North Kingstown who came forward about the “naked fat tests” performed by Thomas had a measured response to Kenyon’s resignation.
“If this is the first sign of him taking responsibility for his actions, or rather inactions, then great,” the former athlete told the Globe. “If this is his way to get out of the spotlight and deflect attention, unfortunately for him, it will not work. We are holding people accountable and he will be held accountable.”
Kenyon is being sued by a North Kingstown High School student-athlete and his father, who also accuse other former school administrators and athletic directors of allowing coaches to behave inappropriately with students and brushing off complaints about their behavior.
Clenchy previously told the Chronicle that the school district was aware of and monitoring publicly available information regarding the ongoing investigations in Rhode Island. She also said that they had interviewed Kenyon “relating to his former employer.”
The former student, identified as John Doe 42 in a civil lawsuit filed in April in Providence County Superior Court, is seeking damages for negligence for being subjected to the “naked fat tests” that Thomas had performed for years on teen male athletes.
They are represented by lawyer Timothy J. Conlon, who is also representing other former students in a complaint and writ of replevin against Thomas in Washington County Superior Court.
“This action is not surprising, and interesting, given his recent public statement that he left North Kingstown because ‘it became a toxic environment and very political,’” Conlon said Friday.
Conlon also filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on behalf of five former students, alleging that school officials ignored Thomas’ misconduct, delayed reporting him to the state Department of Education, and allowed Thomas to use his position inappropriately.
The North Kingstown police and attorney general’s office are also conducting a criminal investigation into Thomas. Retired Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl is also conducting an investigation and review into the investigations on behalf of the Town Council; her report is expected before the end of the school year.
Kenyon had been the athletic director at North Kingstown High School since 1985 and was Thomas’ direct supervisor since the 1990s. He made Thomas an assistant football coach and, later, the varsity basketball coach, and put him in charge of the summer sports programs.
Around 2005, Kenyon also involved Thomas in a private, for-profit testing company for high school athletes, Athletic IQ, and assigned Thomas and another coach to operate the body fat testing station for students in North Kingstown.
Kenyon resigned in August 2009, as the school administration received preliminary results of an audit into alleged spending abuses.
But Kenyon had given Thomas authority to conduct the “sham program,” the lawsuit alleges, and Thomas used his coaching position to get access to children at North Kingstown and other places as a pretext to conduct intimate physical examinations.
After leaving North Kingstown, Kenyon was hired as athletic director and football coach at Nauset Regional High School in Orleans. He was later named interim principal at the middle school and became full time in November.
He is now the fourth school official associated with the Thomas investigations to resign. Superintendent Phil Auger and Assistant Superintendent Denise Mancieri both resigned in March as an independent investigator released a report blasting their response to complaints about Thomas. School District Chief Operating Officer Mary King moved up her retirement to June.
The investigator, Matthew Oliverio, had also reported that Kenyon didn’t respond to calls or emails to his school in December requesting his cooperation; subject line: “Aaron Thomas and North Kingstown Public Schools Investigation.” Oliverio wrote that Kenyon was a critical part of the investigation. Kenyon later issued a statement in March that he never received the calls or emails, and that he was willing to cooperate.
Oliverio’s investigative report found that school officials had turned a blind eye to what Thomas had been doing, and ultimately failed to protect students.
Saying that he was conducting body-fat tests to improve their athletic performance, Thomas arranged meetings with boys one-on-one in his office for more than 20 years. Those who met with him got the same question, “Are you shy or not shy?” Those who said they weren’t shy would remove their underwear or drop their towels, to allow Thomas to examine and measure their bodies, including their groins. Thomas used skin-fold calipers and touched them with his bare hands.
Amanda Milkovits can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.