U.S. Markets closed

Police: Illinois Preschoolers Forced To Strip, Stand Naked in Closet as Punishment

Chris Harris
Teachers Allegedly Forced Kids to Stand Nude in Closet as Punishment

Two women have been suspended with pay from their jobs at a Head Start program in Illinois, as police investigate allegations that both women abused four of the 20 children left in their care.

PEOPLE confirms that charges have not yet been filed against the two educators, who are no longer working for the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, which operated the childcare program out of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East Saint Louis.

The two women — a 26-year-old teacher and a 41-year-old teaching assistant — have not been named.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Police Chief Kevin Schmoll told KTVI his officers worked quickly to address the allegations after they came to light.

One of the alleged victims spoke to his mother and she brought the accusations to authorities.

Within hours, the teacher and her assistant were removed from the classroom of 20 kids.

According to Schmoll, four students were allegedly forced to undress and stand in a dark closet for between 5 and 10 minutes.

Those subjected to this discipline were being punished for unspecified bad behaviors.

The investigation continues, the chief said.

“One teacher said … she felt it would calm the children down by doing this,” Schmoll told the station. “But it’s obviously in no teaching manual anywhere. It’s inappropriate and against the law to do this.”

None of the four children were physically or sexually abused, Schmoll said.

He alleged the teacher admitted to the bizarre form of punishment.

The assistant, according to Schmoll, is facing scrutiny for failing to do anything to stop the punishments.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

A spokesperson for the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation provided a statement to KTVI, saying “the program is run completely independently from the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center programming and Foundation.”

It adds: “Our staff was in no way involved in this alleged incident and had no knowledge of what happened in this case. 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.”