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CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island has opened an investigation into the North Kingstown School Department after student-athletes filed a complaint that the high school violated students’ civil rights by allowing a former boys’ basketball coach to disrobe athletes for “fat tests” for two decades.
U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a statement Monday that “our office can confirm that we have received a complaint and that we are conducting a civil investigation of the North Kingstown School Department, pursuant to federal civil rights laws.”
Five former North Kingstown High School students state in their complaint that the department permitted ex-coach Aaron Thomas to remain in his coaching and teaching positions, using his authority “to groom students into the widespread acceptance of his practices," The Providence Journal reported Monday.
The complaint also alleges Thomas misrepresented the “fat tests" and “other practices that involved naked inspection and touching of children as necessary.”
Alongside allegations against Thomas, the complaint claims the school failed to report Thomas' conduct to the Department of Children, Youth and Families and Department of Education until years after the reported incidents occurred.
Thomas resigned from his position last year and has not been charged with a crime, denying any wrongdoing, the newspaper said.
In addition to the Rhode Island U.S. attorney's civil investigation, the state attorney general’s office has opened a criminal investigation.
School Committee Chairman Gregory Blasbalg and Superintendent Phil Auger did not return phone calls requesting comment.
This story was first published on January 11, 2022. It was updated on January 13, 2022, to correct that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island has opened a civil investigation, not the Rhode Island attorney general.