NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — Multiple school officials in North Kingstown knew for years that a high school basketball coach was asking boys to strip down for “fat tests,” but nothing was done to stop it, according to a new investigative report.
The report, requested by the North Kingstown School Committee, was released on Wednesday as part of an investigation into former New Kingstown High School boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas.
It found that administrators, athletic directors and coaches were aware that Thomas was conducting what he called body fat tests alone with students who were nude or partially clothed and allowed it to continue, according to The Boston Globe.
In a 2017 encounter described in the report, former athletic director Howie Hague recalled coming across Thomas in a classroom alone with a male student who was wearing only shorts. Hague said he notified the principal and, weeks later, was told by an athletics official that the issue had been addressed, the report said.
But other students and adults interviewed by investigators said the tests continued afterward and had been going on for at least 20 years.
Several former students said it was known that if Thomas asked whether they were “shy or not shy” during an examination, they were expected to remove their underwear, according to the report. Some students said they faced the test once a month.
The report concluded that Thomas poses “a potential threat and liability” to the school community. It urged officials to consider measures to prevent one-on-one athletic testing between students and adults.
School Committee Chairman Gregory Blasbalg called the findings “disturbing.” He added that the committee is working to uncover all the facts and to strengthen rules around student safety. A second report is expected in January examining what else was known about Thomas’ alleged behavior.
Thomas is also under criminal investigation by the state attorney general, but has not been charged.
Thomas’ attorney, John MacDonald, previously told WPRI-TV that the testing program was designed to help student-athletes improve their performance, and that it was completely voluntary and parents signed consent forms. Some parents have publicly disputed his claim.
Thomas was hired as a teacher in North Kingstown in 1990. After former students came forward to raise concerns about encounters with him, Thomas was placed on leave and the school committee voted to fire him in February, effective by the end of the school year. He resigned in June.