EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KMOV/CNN) - Two Head Start teachers in Illinois are on paid administrative leave following allegations that preschool students in the program were forced to strip off their clothes as part of punishment for misbehaving.
Police Chief Kevin Schmoll with Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville says four of the 20 students in a Head Start program operated by the college were forced to take their clothes off. The students are 4 and 5 years old.
"Children would misbehave in the class, and this teacher would have them disrobe and make them stand inside a closet for about five or 10 minutes as their discipline,” Schmoll said.
Schmoll says this form of punishment had been going on since early February, but police were only notified last week.
"We felt that was very inappropriate, and possibly there's some criminal actions and charges that could come as a result of this," he said.
Two teachers have been placed on administrative leave following the allegations.
One, who is accused of disciplining the students inappropriately, is 26 years old and has been working at the location for three years. The second teacher, a 41-year-old with five years’ experience, allegedly witnessed the punishment and did not report it.
The victims will be interviewed at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Belleville, IL, in the coming weeks. A representative with the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office is expected to be there, and charges could come at that time.
The Head Start program operated out of the university’s Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center.
In a statement, representatives with the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation denied involvement with or knowledge of the alleged incidents, saying the program was independent from the center itself.
“As a Foundation that dedicates itself to improving the lives of children, we were deeply saddened to hear this alleged incident occurred and know that appropriate legal actions are being taken,” read the statement in part.