Ex-high school coach investigated over nude 'body fat' tests

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NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — A former high school basketball coach is being investigated by the Rhode Island attorney general's office after former players came forward to say he for years asked male student-athletes to disrobe while alone with him so he could perform what he called body fat tests.

Aaron Thomas, 54, had been a teacher and coach at North Kingstown High School since the 1990s before he resigned in June, when the reports came to light.

He is not facing any criminal charges. A spokesperson for state Attorney General Peter Neronha confirmed the investigation this week but could not provide details.

Thomas' attorney, John MacDonald, said that the tests using skinfold calipers were done with parental consent and that his client has hundreds of signed consent forms collected over a period of several years as proof.

However, the consent forms viewed by The Boston Globe make no mention of nudity, which MacDonald acknowledged.

Thomas simply found it easier to test players when they were nude, the attorney said.

“The testing started on the upper body with the shirt off, and go lower with underwear on or off,” the attorney told the newspaper. “It was simply quicker to do with underwear not in the way."

Thomas measured the adductor muscles of the inner thigh but did not touch the groin area, MacDonald said.

The consent form mentions assessing body fat composition, testing muscle strength and development, and was “designed to help athletes to reach their full potential.”

Jennifer Lima, a member of the North Kingstown School Committee, said this week that her now-adult son recently told her that he was checked by Thomas. She said it’s possible she signed a form for fat testing, among all the forms parents sign for kids playing sports, but she did not consent for him to be undressed.

The tests first came to light when a former student told the school department in 2018. At that point, school administrators told Thomas that testing could be done only in the locker room with at least two adults present.

More former students came forward this year, with some alleging Thomas would ask them, “Are you shy, or not shy?” Students who said they were not shy removed their underwear for the test.

North Kingstown police told school officials in September that they were not pursuing criminal charges, according to the school committee. But local police are now cooperating with the attorney general's office.

The school committee is also investigating.

Timothy Conlon, an attorney for some of the former students, in a statement Friday urged transparency.

He said at least two former students spoke with school officials 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 said one of the pinches was on the inner thigh within inches of the genitals.

They both said the testing had been “routinized" and other school personnel must have known about it.

Conlon also said to his knowledge no report was ever made to state child welfare officials.

Thomas got another job at a private middle school in South Kingstown in September but was fired last week after the allegations became public.