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Pre-school staff suspended after allegedly forcing children to stand naked in closet as punishment

Kindergarteners would be forced to strip naked and stand in a closet for five or 10 minutes as a punishment last week in East St. Louis, Illinois. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) runs the Head Start program held at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, where there is a class of about 20 preschoolers, SIUE police chief Kevin Schmoll said.
(SIUE Police)

Kindergarteners would be forced to strip naked and stand in a closet for five or 10 minutes as a punishment last week in East St. Louis, Illinois, that the suspensions, without pay, of a teacher and her assistant, reports said on Tuesday.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) runs the Head Start program held at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, where there is a class of about 20 preschoolers, SIUE police chief Kevin Schmoll told reporters.

“One teacher said they didn’t learn anywhere, this is what they tried and found it would calm the children down by doing this,” Schmoll told FOX 2 St. Louis. “But it is of course in no education manual and everywhere. It is inappropriate and against the law to do this.”

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Police believe the students were ages 4 and 5, and at least four young boys in the class were punished in the alleged incident, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The teacher is a 26-year-old woman, while her assistant is 41 years old, FOX 2 reported. Schmoll told the station that the teacher admitted to the punishment, while the assistant is in trouble for not intervening or reporting it.

Program leaders sent parents a letter to explain a “child safety violation” in the classroom, the Post-dispatch reported.

“In no case has the program condone or inappropriate treatment for children, families or staff,” the letter said.

A spokesman for the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in a statement late Tuesday to say that the program for “independent” of the centre programming and the foundation.

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“The staff was in no way involved in this alleged incident and had no knowledge of what happened in this case,” the statement said. “As a Foundation committed to improving the lives of children, we were deeply saddened to hear that this alleged incident occurred, and know the proper legal actions will be taken.”

The St. Clair County State Attorney’s office is expected to make the case for possible charges, Schmoll told the Post-Dispatch.

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