PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An attorney representing former student athletes at North Kingstown High School has issued subpoenas seeking information from the school and its former boys basketball coach, Aaron Thomas, who’s accused of inappropriately getting underage players to strip naked with him alone behind closed doors over multiple decades.
Timothy Conlon, a Providence attorney representing at least three former students named only as “John Does 1-3,” issued the two civil subpoenas to the North Kingstown School Department and Thomas earlier this week through Washington County Superior Court.
The subpoenas, which are scheduled to be discussed at a hearing Friday, shed new light on what type of information is under scrutiny in a civil proceeding that’s happening parallel to an ongoing criminal investigation into Thomas and his so-called “fat test” program.
R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha and local police are examining whether the former coach broke any laws when he had students completely undress alone with him for the tests in a closet and his teaching office since at least the mid-1990s.
According to the subpoena to the School Department, Conlon is seeking all communications between Thomas and school officials, along with all communication between the coach and students during his tenure at the high school. Conlon has also requested all information related to “Athletic IQ,” a now-defunct private company that some residents have argued was connected to the fat-testing data collection effort in the mid-2000s.
In the subpoena to Thomas, Conlon requested the coach provide all of his communications, along with consent forms detailed in a separate “writ of replevin” motion filed earlier this month.
“We’re in the process of appropriately documenting what we now understand is represented to be the travel of this, which is somehow the documents being removed from the school, then returned to the school,” Conlon said last month.
Thomas’s lawyer, John MacDonald, said last month the coach was in possession of 300 signed consent forms spanning more than 10 years, arguing the documents show the tests happened with parental and student permission. Shortly thereafter, however, MacDonald told Target 12 the consent forms had been returned to the School Department.
The forms don’t include any language explaining that students may have to be naked for the tests, according to a copy provided to Target 12.
As part of the fat tests, several students interviewed by Target 12 said Thomas would kneel in front of their naked bodies while measuring their upper inner thighs. Multiple students also said he would direct them to stretch, sit cross-legged and to perform “duck walks,” an exercise that requires walking forward while in a partially squatted position.
In at least one case, a student said Thomas told him to get naked for a hernia test on him — where the coach used his hands to press around the student’s genitals — even though he hadn’t complained of any discomfort.
Thomas has not been criminally charged with anything, and has argued through a lawyer that he never did anything illegal. He also said the fat tests helped players improve as athletes, although several people interviewed by Target 12 said the testing was never tied to any type of weight lifting or dieting regimen.
Target 12 has interviewed one former athlete who said he was fat tested and defended Thomas. He argued the tests were not inappropriate and that the former coach was being unfairly characterized. The student said he did not get completely naked for the tests.
North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Auger, who is facing calls for his resignation, has not responded to several requests for interviews to discuss the various issues related to Thomas and the fat testing.
Auger claims he was first notified about the inappropriate fat testing in 2018 when a former student approached him and told him about Thomas’s program. But he denies ever being told the students were told to be naked for the tests, contradicting statements made by both Conlon and the former student.
Despite claiming he didn’t know about the nudity, Auger said he asked Thomas afterward whether any students were naked for the tests. And when Thomas denied anything inappropriate, Auger said he directed the coach to stop testing the students inside his teaching office — where he had a surveillance camera set up outside of the door — and that witnesses be present.
Kim Lanowy, a mother of two former students who graduated after 2018, said this week the inappropriate testing nonetheless continued. During a Town Council meeting on Monday, Lanowy said she talked with her sons — now in college — over Thanksgiving break and they told her the tests happened up until at least 2020. (Thomas was put on administrative leave in early 2021. He resigned ahead of a planned termination in June.)
“That’s two full years after Dr. Auger had a talk with Mr. Thomas,” Lanowy said.
Conlon’s subpoenas were signed and returned to the court Tuesday by Auger’s assistant and Thomas, respectively, according to court documents. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has scheduled the hearing at 9:30 a.m. Friday in Washington County Superior Court.