EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CBS Local) — Two Head Start teachers are on paid administrative leave after preschoolers were allegedly forced to strip off all of their clothes and stand in a closet as part of punishment for misbehaving, police in East St. Louis, Illinois, said.
The teachers and students are part of the Head Start program operated by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center.
“Children would misbehave in class and the teacher would have them disrobe and stand them, make them stand inside a closet for five or 10 minutes as their discipline,” SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll told CBS affiliate KMOV. “Then they would redress and join the class.”
Schmoll said 4 of the 20 students in the class, aged 4 and 5-years-old, were forced to take their clothes off. Schmoll said this form of punishment had been going on since early February but that police were only notified last week.
“We felt that was very inappropriate and possible there’s some criminal action and some charges could come from this,” said Schmoll.
Police said the teacher accused of disciplining students inappropriately is 26-years old and has been a Head Start teacher at the center for three years.
A second teacher, aged 41 with five years’ experience in the program, was also put on paid administrative leave for allegedly witnessing the students forced to take their clothes off and not reporting it.
Police said they don’t believe there was any sexual contact between the adults and the children while they were naked.
A representative of the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office is expected to be present when the children are more thoroughly interviewed at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Belleville in two weeks. Charges could come after that, KMOV reported.