NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – A family has come forward with allegations that a second former North Kingstown coach acted inappropriately toward an underage student, raising new questions in a community still grappling with the previous controversy.
The allegations against the second former coach, who isn’t named and still works as a North Kingstown teacher, were outlined in a letter released Thursday by Timothy Conlon, a private attorney representing the family and the student, identified as “Jane Doe 1.”
Conlon said the former coach’s inappropriate behavior included isolating the underage girl beginning in 2017, becoming “inappropriately fixated on her,” touching her without parental consent and “stalking the child both within and without the school” when she was 12 or 13 years old.
“Feeling uncomfortable with the coach’s attention, the child began to employ the kind of distancing strategies adult women might use to keep an unwanted suitor at bay,” Conlon wrote. “But as the child sought to distance herself from this coach, the parents reported that he … stalked her outside the school, going so far as to park his truck in the woods where she ran.”
The seven-page letter was addressed to Kevin Hubbard, a Rhode Island assistant U.S. attorney. Hubbard and a team from the U.S. attorney’s office are currently leading a civil rights investigation into the North Kingstown school district tied to separate allegations against the other former coach, Aaron Thomas.
Thomas, a former high school boys basketball coach, has been accused of inappropriately touching dozens of former students while they were naked over multiple decades. He’s currently under criminal investigation, but he hasn’t been charged and has denied any wrongdoing.
Conlon, who is also representing former students in the Thomas affair, said it’s up to federal investigators whether the latest complaint should be deemed separate from Thomas or viewed “in connection with the existing investigation.” But he argued the former student’s parents “are adamant that they complained to multiple NKSD officials about stalking, and he highlighted that “stalking is a Title IX violation.”
“We assert this their complaints should have been handled as Title IX issues, and should be a matter of record,” he added.
Conlon argued the former coach’s pattern of behavior toward the underage girl wasn’t isolated. According to Conlon, another educator said the accused teacher made it “a practice over a number of previous years to single out and cultivate for ‘special’ attention young girls on his team.”
The girl’s mother also said her daughter told her that the coach made “crude sexual innuendos as the children worked out.”
“As the child backed away from the coach’s overtures, he also retaliated by shaming and ostracizing the child,” Conlon wrote. “She spent the better part of two years crying about going to school while the coach continued to teach and stalk her.”
According to the letter, the student’s parents said they repeatedly complained about the coach’s behavior toward their daughter. But after months of “inadequate responses,” they filed a formal complaint with former Superintendent Philip Auger in 2018.
Auger recently resigned amid intense scrutiny of his handling of the Thomas allegations, and the North Kingstown School Department has since “not been able to locate the complaint or Auger’s letter response,” according to Conlon.
He noted a February communication with North Kingstown School Department human resources director Brian Lally, who advised, “We don’t have a copy in his personnel file of any complaint that was made,” according to the letter.
“Fortunately, the parents retained an email exchange between themselves and Auger from January 2019, in which Auger discusses having received and acted upon the complaint,” Conlon wrote, adding that he has provided investigators with an email chain between the parents and Auger with the subject line “Complaint” and dated Jan. 10, 2019.
After getting an unsatisfactory response from Auger, the girl’s mother said she reached out in January 2019 to North Kingstown School Committee Chairman Gregory Blasbalg, who she said told her “It is virtually impossible to fire a teacher,” according to the letter.
But after telling Blasbalg she intended to seek a restraining order “to address the teacher’s stalking,” the mother said “Blasbalg indicated he would talk to Auger and the coaching position would be “reviewed,” according to the letter.
Around the same time, the parents said Auger told the girl’s father that the coach “would no longer be coaching at the school.” But that wasn’t the end of his coaching career, according to Conlon.
“We have to assume NKSD took no formal action, however, as [the coach] immediately sought, and ultimately obtained, a coaching position at another school system for the following season,” Conlon wrote.“At least two sets of parents of female athletes from that school system advised officials there of his having young kids over to his basement for private coaching sessions and forming relationships with favorite girls.”
According to the letter, the coach has since been “asked not to return” to coach at the second school. He has “taken a coaching position with a third school system, and remains employed in the NKSD schools,” according to Conlon.
In addition to sending the letter to the federal investigators, Conlon said he forwarded the information to the North Kingstown School District, the R.I. Department of Education and former Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl, who has been hired by the North Kingstown Town Council to review the Thomas allegations.
School officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“To the extent that applicable law, policies and or regulations give your office authority to fully investigate and seek federal remedies available to address these failures or otherwise hold accountable those responsible for these failures, we respectfully ask the Department of Justice to do so,” Conlon wrote.
Tim White contributed to this report.