Town Council exploring independent investigation into ‘disturbing’ allegations against former North Kingstown coach

South County

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – North Kingstown Town Council President Greg Mancini said Monday he hopes the council will independently investigate the allegations against the high school’s former basketball coach, who’s accused of instructing student-athletes to strip naked for so-called “fat tests” while alone with him in his office.

“I want to first commend the very brave North Kingstown alumni for coming forward regarding what happened,” Mancini said at Monday night’s council meeting. “I think this alleged behavior is completely unacceptable.”

Multiple former North Kingstown High School students have told Target 12 that former boys basketball coach Aaron Thomas made them meet him alone in his office and strip naked so he could perform what they called a “fat test.” The former students say the behavior went on for years.

Attorney General Peter Neronha is investigating the allegations. Thomas has not responded to requests for comment.

“Currently, there are two investigations, and it’s my hope that this council will work in a bipartisan fashion to independently hire its own professional to review the findings of this investigation,” said Mancini. “We need to get to the bottom of this.”

Residents and parents who attended Monday night’s council meeting voiced their outrage at the growing scandal. All were in agreement that the School Committee should not be handling the investigation. They also called on the School Committee to put Superintendent Phil Auger on leave pending the results of an independent investigation.

“There’s a problem in our school department,” said one resident, Jim McGwin. “There’s been a problem in our school department for years. We did not know that it involved this. People had to have known, and the question is, who knew what, and when did they know it, and what did they do about it?”

Town councilors agreed that there should be an independent investigation and that it should be transparent.

“I think this needs to be the most transparent,” said Town Councilor Kerry McKay. “There’ll be no executive sessions, no closed meetings. This should all be public.”

The School Committee met behind closed doors for about six hours on Saturday to discuss the Thomas situation as protestors outside called for transparency. They emerged afterwards and announced they were reopening an investigation into whether school officials handled the Thomas allegations correctly.

“I was absolutely appalled that the School Committee spent six hours behind closed doors on Saturday while we stood in the parking lot,” said North Kingstown parent Kim Lanowy. “I do not think that the School Committee should be in charge of investigating the School Committee, because there is some fault there as well.”

Target 12 reported last week that Auger was told about the tests Thomas was conducting back in 2018.

In a statement after Saturday’s meeting, the School Committee claimed Auger was not informed at the time that Thomas had been instructing students to strip nude for the fat tests. But the former student who approached Auger in 2018 has countered that, telling Target 12 he told Auger that he and others were naked.

“The fact that [Auger] is still in the school I think is going to quash openness with teachers,” said Lanowy. “This went on for a decade or more. There are teachers in that school who are complicit in the coverup.”

McGwin said he believes the School Committee covered the scandal up to keep the district’s good reputation intact. The high school was recently named a a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

“It wasn’t just one person, it was the people who stood by and knew this was going on and didn’t say anything,” McGwin said. “Are awards worth more than kids?”

An attorney for some of the former North Kingstown High students, Tim Conlon, also addressed the council, saying he’s requested documents from the school department for his clients’ cases but has yet to receive them. He asked councilors for their help in getting answers.

“I understand that the school committee has by statute 45 days to respond by providing me those records, but those records would be helpful to those boys right now,” said Conlon. “So I would ask to the extent that you folks here have any control of that entity, that you expedite the production of those records to my office.”

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