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Protesters rally outside RI school meeting amid naked ‘fat test’ scandal

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A group of protesters rallied outside a North Kingstown School Committee meeting. (WPRI/Tim White)

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A group of protesters rallied outside a North Kingstown School Committee meeting on Saturday, criticizing education leaders and calling on some to resign in the wake of a growing scandal involving the former boys basketball coach.

The meeting was scheduled earlier this week after Target 12 first reported on allegations that Aaron Thomas, who coached North Kingstown boys basketball for more than two decades before quietly resigning earlier this year, directed underage student athletes over multiple decades to strip naked in his teaching office for so-called “fat tests.

“Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you,” the group of more than 30 protesters chanted in the parking lot outside of the building where the meeting took place.

In an unusual move, the School Committee members came outside briefly to call the meeting into public session before immediately voting to go into non-public session, then moving inside. The vote sparked frustration among the crowd and some individuals started pounding on the front door, which was locked.

The protesters — comprising both North Kingstown residents and non-residents — expressed anger with how the North Kingstown School Department has handled the allegations surrounding Thomas. The former teacher and boys basketball coach was put on administrative leave earlier this year after multiple former students came forward to accuse him of inappropriately getting them to strip naked alone with him.

Once naked, the coach would instruct the teenagers to perform stretches, sit cross-legged in front of him, and allow him to use a caliper to pinch and measure their body fat, according to documents obtained by Target 12 as well as interviews with 10 former students, parents and town officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Two others sent emails to Target 12 detailing similar experiences.

Thomas, who has not responded to requests for comment, has not been charged with any criminal offenses. The North Kingstown Police Department told Target 12 on Sept. 1 an investigation into the allegations that started in 2018 had been closed.

The R.I. Attorney General has since said the investigation into Thomas remains open.

After former students came forward in February, the School Committee voted to fire Thomas. But he ended up resigning ahead of the termination, scheduled for late June, and nothing was ever announced about his departure until after Target 12 broke the news last Friday.

A day after that report, North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Auger sent a message to parents explaining Thomas had left, arguing officials took immediate action about an allegation that was raised earlier this year — even launching their own internal investigation.

But Target 12 spoke with multiple people who said Auger knew about Thomas’s behavior as early as in 2018. The superintendent has declined multiple interview requests from Target 12, and he was the focus of some of the protesters’ frustration on Saturday.

“Auger must go, you must resign,” the protesters chanted.

This is a breaking news story and it will be updated.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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