PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha is seeking to complete his civil rights investigation of the North Kingstown School Department by the fall, saying he wants to make a decision ahead of next school year in the event some type of corrective action is required.

The state’s top federal prosecutor launched the Title IV investigation earlier this year in the wake of the naked fat test scandal involving by Aaron Thomas, the high school’s former boys basketball coach. Thomas has been accused of inappropriately getting underage student-athletes to strip completely naked alone behind closed doors with him over multiple decades.

Cunha, who launched the investigation within weeks of President Joe Biden nominating him to the top position, is examining whether the school district failed to appropriately respond to accusations of sexual misconduct over the years.

“We’ve been pursuing it aggressively because the focus of our investigation is on a remedy and making sure institutionally you don’t have failure going forward,” Cunha said during a taping of this week’s Newsmakers. “My goal is that we take action before the start of the school year.”

Federal investigators have repeatedly visited the district and interviewed various officials, Target 12 has confirmed. And while Cunha wasn’t specific about which way the investigation is leaning, he said compliance measures that are typical of this type of investigation — when necessary — include monitoring, reporting or oversight.

“The goal is that when somebody comes forward with an allegation — that the institution doesn’t fail them,” he said. “That the institution takes the appropriate steps or refers it out to the appropriate outside sources so there can be an investigation. So you don’t have a situation where it simmers for years or even decades.”

The question his office is trying to answer, he added, is what happened historically and what measures — if any — need to be put in place “to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again in the future.”

While Cunha’s probe focuses on whether the school district violated civil rights, R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha is currently investigation whether Thomas or anybody else broke any criminal laws. The attorney general launched his investigation last year when Target 12 first reported publicly about the existence of the fat tests.

Earlier this week, Neronha told 12 News he was within weeks of completing his investigation, a slightly longer than expected timeline.

“There’s a lot of people to interview and a lot of information to sort through, so I expect we’ll have something to announce within a few weeks,” Neronha said.

The state and federal investigations have happened at the same time the North Kingstown Town Council and School Committee have conducted their own internal investigations. Those reports have concluded and largely confirmed public reporting, showing the unsanctioned testing went on unchallenged for years — despite several red flags along the way.

This week, five men who were subjected to the naked fat tests over the years sat down for an exclusive televised interview with Target 12, regaining how the experiences had affected their lives in the years since.

One former student, who played for Thomas two decades ago, said the coach got him to strip naked shortly after the student’s father had died – an experience he described as traumatic.

“It’s completely changed my life,” he told Target 12. “I went through a battle of addiction; he took advantage of me at a vulnerable time when I lost my dad. It was tough.”

Cunha, who watched the interview, said listening to the accounts of the students was “heart wrenching.”

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tim White ( 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.

Ted Nesi ( 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 and Facebook