Girls and young women described a sporting culture in which they were ogled, touched and singled out to draw attention to their bodies, but where they were told that was how coaches were.
The allegations are set out in a letter and signed statements that attorney Timothy Conlon sent Thursday to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin L. Hubbard, who is working with Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy R. Romero in the ongoing investigation into the complaints of Thomas.
Conlon represents former athletes who filed a Title IX civil rights lawsuit in January, alleging North Kingstown school officials ignored Thomas’ conduct for years.
“Clearly the problem at the NKSD is not simply that Thomas’ conduct with young boys flew under the radar in high school for decades,” Conlon wrote to Hubbard. “During this same 20-year period, several people were reportedly aware of behavior on the part of NKSD educators that should have prompted action…but little formal action was taken.”
Davisville Middle School teacher and coach
There was the Davisville Middle School teacher, also a coach, whose fixation and flirtatious behavior towards certain girls made the students so uncomfortable that some of the boys kept a journal of his behavior. They started in January 2021: “This is now the official chat that we will later use as evidence against [the teacher] about pedophilia in case something happens in the future and we’re right.
For years, the teacher, identified as 21-year-old John Roe, also DJed at college dances, where former students and a parent who was a chaperone recalled him performing the song “Booty Drop “, from the rap group 69Boyz, and inviting the girls to twerk. One student recalled the coach asking the girls to take off their shirts and put them back on during races, so they could run in sports bras.
A family complained that the coach was obsessed with their daughter and harassed her. Although the school department eventually removed this teacher from coaching in North Kingstown — after the mother threatened to get a restraining order — he went on to coach at two other school districts in Rhode Island.
North Kingstown High School Coach
There was the North Kingstown High School coach, identified as 22-year-old John Roe, whose attention to the girls made them feel uncomfortable, to the point that some didn’t go to class. A woman, who graduated in 2006, said the trainer was physically inappropriate with her in the weight room, talking about how his body compared to his wife’s.
“While he was supposed to spot me, he leaned his body against my back and put his hands on my legs. I could feel his whole body pressed against me, both above the waist and with his groin against my back during which he rubbed against me,” Jane Doe 5 said in a witness statement. “On other occasions, also touched me several times without my consent. He massaged my neck, shoulders and legs – around my calf and up to the inside of my thigh.
Another alumnus said the coach made it clear which girls he found attractive – and which ones he didn’t.
“While there were girls who liked the attention he gave to his favorites, and among them [John Roe 22] was popular, there were many others who found his behavior towards them and others extremely uncomfortable,” Jane Doe 2 said in a statement. “During my time at NKHS, I was one of many female students he did this to, being part of a group of young girls he openly referred to in front of other students as part of the ‘ittie bitty’ committee. titty. ‘”
“Part of a path to sporting success”
Both young women said they dreaded going to the coach class, but felt helpless. “Although I and others were uncomfortable with what was happening at the time, we were conditioned to see that [the coach’s] actions were ‘just what he does’ or even just part of the NKHS experience,” said Jane Doe 2. The coach “was close to many students and their parents and was seen as part of the journey. towards sports success at school”.
“The school had such a commitment to the coaches, and because his conduct was such a common thing, no one questioned his actions,” said Jane Doe 5. “Based on [the coach’s] position and the comments from my peers saying “that’s the way he was”, I thought that in order to succeed in his class, and in school in general, you had to support his actions.
As teenagers, they thought they had to live with it. “So even though every time it made me feel like I was dirty, that was if I was wrong,” Jane Doe 5 wrote. I would have believed. I felt helpless and ashamed. To this day, I can’t walk into a gym. I don’t trust anyone in a gym.
This all happened during the decades when Thomas was performing “bare fat tests” on teenage male athletes.
Thomas, 54, is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and North Kingstown Police. Several current and former male athletes have shared how Thomas would put them alone in a closet or his small office and invite them to strip with the question, “Are you shy or not shy?” Then he would touch their bodies near their groins for a so-called “fat test”. One athlete said Thomas was visibly excited.
School board and city council investigations revealed that Thomas was able to do it unchecked for more than 20 years because the tests were ‘standardised’ and he was considered a ‘golden boy’ in the sports program successful.
In his letter to the U.S. attorney, Conlon said the latest witness statements against two other coaches were part of the school district’s culture where some students were resigned to putting up with the behavior, while others documented it, in the hope that what they saw would one day serve as proof.
Messages from acting North Kingstown School Superintendent Michael Waterman, school district attorney Mary Ann Carroll and school board chairman Gregory Blasbalg were not immediately returned.