New Bedford Police are investigating whether a substitute teacher had his coffee spiked with a chemical while he was volunteering at the vocational high school on Wednesday.
"There is the possibility that it might have been tampered with,'' said Michael Shea, superintendent of the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Shea declined to identify the substitute by name, but said he often works at the school and is a volunteer coach on the 2,100-student school's baseball team.
"All the students like him, all the staff like him,'' Shea said in a telephone interview today. "I don't think he was intentionally targeted and I don't think they meant to harm him. That's my gut feeling.''
According to Shea and New Bedford Police Chief Ronald Teachman, the teacher was in the shop area of the school Wednesday afternoon assisting a student seeking to complete a year-end project.
"We had a teacher take ill who was transported to the hospital,'' Teachman said this morning. "We are investigating the circumstances regarding that teacher's illness.''
At the time, there were three teachers and about 33 students in the sprawling space that has an area set aside for teaching metalworking skills, including welding, Shea said.
The substitute was drinking a cup of coffee and then put it down. When he picked it up again, "He took a sip, spit it out, and became sick,'' said Shea.
The school nurse summoned an ambulance and administrators called the police. He said the substitute was taken to a local hospital, was released and returned to the school late Wednesday.
"He is doing well,'' said Shea.
Shea said the staffers and students were interviewed by police. Shea said he smelled the cup of coffee. "It wasn't a coffee smell,'' he said
Shea said that while acetone is present in the shop area, he was not certain what substance was in the cup of coffee. Some news reports have reported acetone was in the coffee.
Shea said it is also possible that a chemical spray may have drifted into the cup of coffee.
"What it was, we don't know,'' he said. "Whether it was done intentionally or not, we don't know that, either. ''
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