Attorney for former students releases statement on former coach Aaron Thomas

North Kingstown, RI (WLNE) – An attorney representing several former students of former North Kingstown High School basketball coach Aaron Thomas released a statement on behalf of those former students.

The Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office confirmed to ABC6 that they are investigating Thomas. ABC6 has learned that the investigation involves the manner in which Thomas conducted “fat checks” on student athletes, with some accusing him of conducting the checks while they were naked.

On Friday, attorney Timothy Conlon released a statement on behalf of several former students. Conlon’s statement refutes part of the details released by the North Kingstown School Committee.  After a lengthy meeting on November 6, the North Kingstown School Committee released a statement detailing how their investigation of Thomas unfolded.  The committee said they first received a complaint about Thomas in 2018. The school committee said the complaint was from a former student who wanted to remain anonymous. The former student told the school that Thomas was conducting “fat checks” in his office. The former student said he felt uncomfortable during the checks. According to the school committee statement, the former student said he was clothed during the “fat check” and that he was not touched. However, the student said that it was unusual. The statement said Thomas was then instructed to only conduct “fat checks” in the locker room with at least two adults present.

However, Conlon’s statement claims the school was notified in 2018 by two former students who said “they were naked when examined, alone with a school department coach, on school department property”.  Conlon’s statement claims that this method of “fat check” was routine.

The North Kingstown School Committee said a second former student came forward on February 12, 2021 to say that he was naked when Thomas conducted “fat checks” on him in 2006. The former student said he was alone with Thomas in his office. According to their statement, the student said Thomas touched him inappropriately during at least one of the “fat checks”. At that point, the school committee said the school put Thomas on administrative leave. The school also asked the North Kingstown Police Department to investigate. On February 24, 2021, the school committee voted to terminate Thomas at the end of the school year, which the statement notes was the earliest time allowed by Rhode Island state law.

The school committee statement said the school department also hired attorney Michael Oliverio to conduct an independent investigation. The school committee said Thomas refused to cooperate with that independent investigation. The statement also noted that the first student who came forward did not want to participate in an interview. However, Oliverio determined there was enough evidence that Thomas had “acted inappropriately and without parental consent”.

While still on administrative leave in June 2021, Thomas resigned before his termination would have happened.

Conlon’s statement says one of his clients sent emails to school department officials with additional accusations in 2021, though it’s not clear whether it’s the same former student referenced in the school committee statement as coming forward in 2021.

Here is a portion of Conlon’s statement on behalf of some former students:

November 12, 2021
Statement from Burns & Levinson attorney Timothy Conlon

Last Saturday, after meeting behind closed doors for nearly 6 hours, the North Kingstown School Committee (NKSC) released a statement regarding the North Kingstown School Department (NKSD)’s handling of a former coach.
As has been reported, I represent some of the young men who have come forward regarding what took place at the school. I was asked for a response to that statement.
My clients want me to respond to that statement, and to Ms. Lima, the school
committee member who has publicly revealed that it was her (redacted).
I will start with the School Committee’s public statement:
The School Committee began by acknowledging that:
“there is still information we need to learn.”
We agree.
The School Committee specifically cited an interest in determining what ‘actionable information’ the administration obtained and when.
We want the School Committee to have that information.
The School Committee states it wants transparency.
We share that goal.
Public awareness is step one in protecting students, and accountability. In that regard I want to thank the media for its tireless efforts in pursuit of this story.
The School Committee concluded by asking that “anyone with additional information contact the police and “the North Kingstown School Department.”
I am going to provide this statement, and the accompanying documents to the North
Kingstown School Committee, and, given NKSC’s stated interest in transparency, to the many media outlets that have requested comment.
The School Committee’s statement provides that:
“In 2018, the North Kingstown School Department received information from a former student,” the individual said he was ‘not naked’ during the test ‘and declined to provide any other information when questioned about the incident.
We have additional information on that point.
At least two alumini spoke with North Kingstown officials on a total of 4 occassions in 2018, and advised that they were naked when examined, alone with a school
department coach, on school department property. They identified the coach. Each young man stated that he was touched, and subjected to a series of pinches using the employees fingers and a caliper device. Both boys described one of the pinches was on his inner thigh within inches of his genitals.
These young men made it clear at the time (2018) that their experiences were not to
be taken in isolation, and that naked, one on one examination or ‘testing’ of students had been routinized within the school. They further advised these practices were so routine that there had to be some level of awareness on the part of other school personnel at the time. One young man named those officials who he believed had at least some knowledge of the practices.
To our knowledge, no report was made regarding these matters to the Department of Education, or the Department for Children, Youth and Families at or around that time.
The School Committee statement goes on to reference a report by “a separate former student” regarding that same coach’s activities, which report came to them in
February of 2021, and indicates that the North Kingstown Police were “then notified
of the allegation.”
The School Committee does not make reference to, and we therefore do not know whether they are aware, that one of my clients communicated in writing with School Department officials Denise Mancieri, and Phillip Auger at that time. His email
advised that that these practices took place
with “dozens if not hundreds of boys”
and that named employees:
“watched us all go into [the] office frequently, only to come out with the forms you see attached.”
I have provided redacted copies of these emails and the forms with this statement.

You can read the redacted emails here, along with the rest of Conlon’s statement (*Note: ABC6 redacted some additional information for privacy): Timothy Conlon Statement on North Kingstown Coach Investigation_Redacted (1)

This school year, Thomas had begun teaching middle school at Monsignor Clarke in Wakefield. Upon learning of the allegations at North Kingstown, Monsignor Clarke put Thomas on administrative leave and ultimately fired him on Friday, November 5. The principal said Thomas had passed all background checks and reference checks.

The North Kingstown School Committee statement said the North Kingstown Police Department informed North Kingstown school officials in September that they completed their investigation and did not find evidence of activity that warranted criminal charges.

Read the statement from the North Kingstown School Committee here: North Kingstown School Department statement

Read the statement from Monsignor Clarke here: https://www.abc6.com/where-others-failed-to-act-we-did-current-employer-fires-former-north-kingstown-coach-who-is-under-investigation/

Read previous ABC6 coverage here: https://www.abc6.com/north-kingstown-school-committee-details-timeline-of-coach-aaron-thomas-investigation/

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island