NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — North Kingstown parents came out in full force to Tuesday night’s school committee meeting, which was the first since they met behind closed doors a few weeks ago to discuss the allegations against former boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas.
Thomas has been accused by former student-athletes of having them strip naked while alone with him in his office for so-called “fat tests,” something they allege had been going on since the 1990s.
At Tuesday’s meeting, residents addressed the school committee during public comment and didn’t hold back their disdain for the “inaction” of Superintendent Phil Auger.
“If there was ever a time in your life to get in trouble for something,” one parent questioned. “You don’t think it was for this? For sounding the alarm for this, for protecting our kids?”
Auger defended his decision, speaking publicly for the first time on the allegations. He described the two times he claims he was told about the tests.
The first time was in fall 2018, when Auger said a former student came forward to tell him about the tests and that he was “confused” as to why they were done so far from the locker room area.
He added that the former student was wearing a towel or gym shorts during the tests, and was never naked.
“Aside from feeling uncomfortable, the individual did not allege any inappropriate contact occurred at that time,” Auger said.
He said he then set up a meeting with Thomas, who told him he conducted the tests in his office so that he could easily input the information into his computer.
Auger said he directed Thomas to no longer meet students alone in his office, and if additional testing were to be done, more modern methods should be used and the tests should occur in the locker room with other adults present.
The second time, Auger said he heard from a former student on the issue was in February of this year. A former student came forward to tell him he had been inappropriately touched during the tests.
That’s when Auger immediately took action, he said, placing Thomas on leave within the hour.
“If I had the 2021 information in 2018, I would have initiated the suspension and termination [of Thomas] then,” Auger said.
Parents at the meeting were upset Auger didn’t take action sooner, demanding her resign from his position. They’re also calling for an independent investigation into the allegations and the actions of the North Kingstown School Department.
“Parents were not notified, DCYF was not notified, students were not advised, the coach kept his job [and] the tests continued,” resident Brian O’Dell said. “The real problem here? Apparently, it’s the school department.”