Spotsylvania School Board rep charged with assault of fellow board member

by | May 28, 2024 | ALLFFP, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania

A Spotsylvania County School board representative was served a warrant Tuesday morning on charges of assault and battery of a fellow board member. 

The charge is related to Nicole Cole of the Battlefield District allegedly slamming a door into the shoulder of Lee Hill District representative Lisa Phelps and allegedly extending her leg to trip Phelps. 

Phelps said in a telephone interview that the incident occurred during closed session of the May 20 meeting. 

Phelps also alleged that Cole handed her a piece of paper and told her that she “better pray to her God,” a comment that Phelps perceived as a threat. Phelps said that she did not look at the paper, instead quickly tossing it to the school board attorney. 

Cole will appear in Spotsylvania General District Court on June 5 at 8:30 a.m. She will be represented by Loudoun County-based attorney Charles King. 

Cole said that the only physical contact that night happened inadvertently when Phelps walked into the room and hit the side of her foot while she was standing stationary. 

“That was the only point at which bodies were touched,” Cole said in a telephone interview. “She hit my shoe. I wasn’t moving. She was the one walking in, and she hit my shoe.” 

Cole said the door-slamming allegation is completely made up. She said there would’ve been several witnesses to both alleged incidents since four other board members, the school attorney and superintendent were all present. She said that the door, which is located behind the dais, is also visible to the public and any attendees would have noticed an altercation. 

“I can’t wait until this goes to court,” Cole said. “Their ability to lie and fabricate situations … this is another whole level.” 

Cole also denied making the prayer comment to Phelps. She said that she had been holding on to a sheet of paper with an inspirational prayer on it for a while, and she wanted to appeal to the Christianity of Phelps and Berkeley District board member April Gillespie to get them to change what she believes is disruptive behavior. She said that Gillespie saw her put the paper down at their seats on the dais and a disagreement ensued. 

“I don’t understand how people who profess to be Christian act the way that they do. This is not Godly behavior,” Cole said. “This is not what Jesus would do. I thought if I gave them a prayer, maybe that would help calm them.” 

Phelps said that tensions with Cole have been simmering for a while. Cole spearheaded an effort to have Phelps reprimanded for multiple code of ethics violations that Phelps admitted to committing, but the board voted 6-1 during the meeting in question to rescind the reprimand. Cole was the lone vote to continue with it. 

Phelps said although she was not seriously injured during the alleged incident, it was troubling because her shoulder was hit forcibly, and she stumbled.  

“I was extremely upset because [a disagreement] doesn’t give anybody the right to trip someone or to slam the door on my shoulder when I was walking in,” Phelps said. “It’s par for the course here.” 

Phelps said the closed session was tense because the meeting’s intent was to discuss her reprimand that was initially approved by a 5-0 vote. 

Phelps said she demanded that all discussions about her take place in open session because, in her opinion, closed session should be used to discuss personnel decisions related to staff members, not the actions of elected officials. 

Phelps said she was alarmed that Courtland District representative Carol Medawar recorded their interactions and referred to her as a “bully.” She also said that some board members were discussing with the attorney the legalities of removing her from the meeting.  

Phelps, who mentioned being tripped during the open session that night, noted that Chair Lorita Daniels was not present at the time of the alleged incident. Daniels declined to comment other than to say she was made aware of an alleged disturbance when she arrived at the meeting later that evening. 

“I’m going to stand up for myself,” Phelps said. “You cannot touch anyone. Whether you like someone or not, it does not give you the right to touch someone or trip them.” 

Cole said that being on the school board for the past 2 ½ years has not been an uplifting experience. She said she chose to run for the seat with the goal of positively influencing schoolchildren in Spotsylvania, but instead it’s been nothing but turmoil. 

She said this incident adds to her exasperation. 

“It has been very exhausting for me, and this is coming from a person who has no skin in the game,” Cole said. “My kids have graduated, or I pulled them out because of attacks on me, but I’m still here … This has been a significantly frustrating experience for someone who actually wants to do good for kids.” 

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