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Auger details his response to fat tests

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North Kingstown School Superintendent Phil Auger, second from left, assistant superintendent Dr. Denise Mancieri, left, and school committee members Gregory Blasbalg and Lisa Hildebrand listen to public comments during the school committee meeting held Tuesday evening at the high school.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown School Committee responded for the first time publicly to allegations about former coach Aaron Thomas at its Tuesday meeting.

Among the most notable concerns was that information about these allegations had been brought to the superintendent in 2018. Residents at the meeting questioned the motivations of those involved and demanded answers.

When the allegations were first reported by WPRI television and The Boston Globe, Superintendent Phil Auger released a brief statement to parents and said that he was “legally” prevented from  talking in depth about what and when the school department had known about accusations against the former coach. On Tuesday he shifted course, saying that he feels now that more information has been released to the public, he can make additional statements regarding the incident.

“To that end I want to share with you my account of the two occasions when I contacted regarding Mr. Thomas and body fat testing,” Auger said. “The first was in the fall of 2018. I received very limited information from a former student that attended from 2006-2008.”

Auger said that the former student approached him and told him that he had been made uncomfortable by former coach Thomas during a body fat test which he found unusual. Auger said that he was concerned and asked the graduate to speak further, but the student declined to comment more.

After this report, Auger said that he set up a meeting with Thomas, Assistant Superintendent Denise Mancieri, a union representative and former Principal and Athletic Director Dick Fossa to discuss the concerns.

“Thomas acknowledged that he had conducted body mass and body fat tests going back to the late 1990’s,” Auger recounted. “He stated that he often conducted these tests as a favor to students, that there was widespread knowledge of him doing so and that once he had an office in the new high school he conducted them in the office in order to more easily enter data into his computer.”

Auger told Thomas not to be alone with boys when he conducted the body fat tests.

In February 2021, a 2006 graduate contacted Auger and Mancieri and said that he had also been made to participate in the testing and that he had been touched inappropriately by Thomas. Auger said that after this second report he suspended Thomas and removed him from his teaching and coaching responsibilities. He said that he also contacted the police and they opened their own investigation while the school department hired attorney Matt Oliverio to conduct an investigation as well.

“In both of these instances I recognized the seriousness of the matter,” said Auger. “I acted appropriately and immediately in the best interest of students past and present with the information that I had at the time.”

The committee later approved several motions for bids and awards for repairs at various locations and moved forward with work being done to repair rooftop air conditioning units at the high school.

The school committee’s next, and final meeting of 2021, will be held on December 14 at 7 p.m.

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