To Catch a Creep Cybertraps 136

  • News Item – Students at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown, RI set up a Discord subchannel to document inappropriate behavior by a teacher

  • North Kingstown School District is a hot mess

  • In April 2022, a series of lawsuits were filed against the District, high school administrators, and former boys’ basketball coach Aaron Thomas.

  • The suit alleges that Thomas ordered boys to strip naked and then used calipers on their thighs to allegedly measure body fat percentage

  • Complaints were made about Thomas’s behavior in 2017 and 2018, but the suit alleges that nothing was done

  • Players felt coerced to cooperate because they were competing for spots on the team and playing time

  • Defendants named in the lawsuit include:
    • School committee members
    • North Kingston finance director
    • Former district superintendent Philip Auger
    • Former HS principal and assistant superintendent Denise Mancieri
    • Former teacher/coach Aaron Thomas
  • A second lawsuit alleges that the District was slow to take action against a different coach who stalked a young student for weeks
    • Parents complained repeatedly to school officials but received little cooperation
    • Eventually, the teacher was removed from the district but went on to work in two other districts and is still licensed in Rhode Island
  • Retired judge Susan McGuirl conducted an independent review of the District’s response to the Thomas complaints and concluded that the District and several of its employees had failed to take appropriate action
    • When a school fails, they lost the trust of the community that they serve. Schools must recognize their failures and making the necessary changes to prevent something like this from happening again. That trust must be rebuilt, and that will take time, To rebuild this trust, they must be candid and transparent with the community they serve regarding the changes they are making and any future situations they may encounter.
  • Following the report, administrators Auger and Mancieri resigned. In addition, the U.S. Attorney for the state of Rhode Island opened an investigation

  • In July, six statements were filed with the U.S. Attorney regarding inappropriate behavior by two former North Kingstown coaches. They were accused of finding excuses to watch middle school girls in dance classes, inappropriate comments, encouraging sexualized dancing in class, and overly intimate spotting and assisting during gymnastics and exercise classes
    • In his statement, a current Davis Middle School male student alluded to a “log regarding the comments and conduct that bothered us.”
  • The Boston Globe obtained a copy of the log and reported on it in early September 2022
    • Several sixth grade boys were uncomfortable with how a teacher was treating their female classmates
    • By seventh grade, they decided to take notes, and tried to tell adults (parents? other teachers? administrators?) what was going on. They did not feel anyone was taking them seriously.
    • In January 2021, decided to electronically document different incidents
    • They set up a Discord subchannel, named it after the teacher, and labeled it “Pedo Database.”
    • The kids took notes in real time: “During COVID, as they attended class online, they’d open the Discord channel on a split-screen and document the teacher’s comments …”
    • “Once they were back in class in person, the boys jotted down notes to add to the channel later…”
    • “The “Pedo Database” is in the hands of the US attorney’s Office, the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the state Department of Education, and with lawyer Matthew Oliverio, who is conducting the school’s internal investigation.”
    • Screenshot shows Discord conversation and the savvy with which the boys took notes: teacher comments, students at whom they were directed, date/time
    • [Discord.png]
  • Takeaways

  • Decent kids; great of them to look out for their classmates

  • Adults should do a better job of listening to kids

  • Kids are increasingly sophisticated about the world and how technology can be used to interact with it

  • Kids are not necessarily fully cognizant of the harm that can be caused by casually using or misusing certain words

  • Kids are not trained investigators nor are they necessarily unbiased observers

  • Technology continues to shift traditional power dynamics; kids have access to endless communication and collaboration tools, many invisible to adults

  • Potential for abuse by students is not insignificant; false accusations are not uncommon

  • Resources

  • S.E.S.A.M.E. (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation)

– #2022–09–12 New England Teacher On Leave After 8 Middle School Boys Keep Log Of His Alleged Harassment
– #2022–09–11 A Rhode Island teacher is on leave after a group of middle-school boys who thought he was a ‘creep’ used a ‘pedo database’ to keep track of how he interacted with girls in their class
” – #2022–09–09 The middle school boys thought their teacher was a ‘creep.’ So they tracked how he treated the girls.
– #2022–07–27 What you need to know about North Kingstown High School Coach Aaron Thomas and the ‘fat test’ issue
” – #2022–07–08 New allegations of ‘creepy’ behavior leveled against two North Kingstown coaches
– #2022–06–13 Naked fat testing of NK basketball players was ‘open secret’. What a blistering report says
– #2022–06–09 Independent Review of the North Kingston Fat Testing Controversy
– #2022–06–01 A second former student has sued North Kingstown schools over a coach’s ‘fat tests’
– #2022–05–16 Bill aims to criminalize sex between students and adults in ‘position of authority’
– #2022–04–30 North Kingstown superintendent places middle-school teacher on leave, orders investigation after stalking allegations
” – #2022–04–28 Another North Kingstown coach accused of inappropriate behavior with underage student
” – #2022–04–20 Former student sues North Kingstown officials over Aaron Thomas ‘fat-testing’ scandal
– #2017–04–05 These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned.

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