Two Illinois teachers are on paid leave as authorities investigate allegations that one of them forced preschool children to stand naked in a closet with the door open as punishment for misbehaving while the other passively watched.
The 26-year-old teacher and her 41-year-old assistant work in a Head Start program operated by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in East St. Louis, according to Fox 2 in St. Louis. Police allege the teacher inappropriately disciplined the students, while the assistant witnessed the incidents but didn't report them.
"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. Then they would redress and join the class," said University Police Chief Kevin Schmoll, according to KMOV4. He said at least four students were victimized.
Schmoll says the children will be interviewed early next month before a charging decision is made.
"We felt that was very inappropriate and possible there's some criminal action and some charges could come from this," he said.
Schmoll said that the teacher thought this kind of punishment could calm the children down.
“But it’s obviously in no teaching manual anywhere,” he said according to Fox 2. “It’s inappropriate and against the law to do this.”
The children are between 4 and 5 years old.
The allegations came to light after a little boy told his mom, according to Fox2.
The Head Start program sent a letter to parents saying it was cooperating with investigators and doesn't condone inappropriate behavior.
It is possible there could be other alleged victims. There are reportedly 20 kids in the class.
Neither the teacher nor the assistant have been publicly named at this time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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