Woonsocket substitute teacher arrested, charged after classroom tirade

By News Staff

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – Woonsocket Police arrested a middle school substitute teacher Thursday after he allegedly frightened students and acted in a threatening manner.

A Woonsocket Police School Resource Officer responded to Hamlet Middle School just around 9:30 a.m. after the school’s assistant principal reported firing a substitute teacher and needing police assistance.

Students and teachers told police that Phillip Cole, 58, of Woonsocket, had chased students around a classroom and made references to school shootings. One student said that she was afraid Cole would assault her.

The assistant principal told police that she brought Cole to her office and fired him. He then became furious, claiming that he was being bullied by the students and staff and making violent gestures.

Cole left the property and was later found at a local library and was arrested by police.

Parents we spoke to were not shocked to hear the news.

“A substitute teacher lost his temper and was chasing students and threatening them, that doesn’t surprise me,” said Ted Salvas.

They said they wish the district would be tougher on potential teachers and do more than just a background check.

“Who’s vetting these substitute teachers who are with our kids? If somebody has a bad day and snaps, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s scary that we have to worry about this stuff with our kids,” said parent Laura Beauregard.

This isn’t the first time Cole has run into trouble. According to court records, he was arrested back in 2006 and charged with disorderly conduct and felony assault. He didn’t go to jail but was ordered to undergo a mental health assessment. 

Woonsocket’s Superintendent, Patrick McGee, said Cole passed the background check necessary for becoming a substitute teacher.

“This particular individual did pass the BCI, so there were no disqualifying indicators,” said McGee.

McGee said in the future, they’ll be taking a closer look, and asking more questions about their potential employees during the interview process.

Cole’s appearance in court Friday was waived, and his bail was lowered to $5,000 personal recognizance. He’ll be back in court May 15.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019