Metro-East News

Child who exposed himself at Head Start remains in classroom, parent says

A Jersey County father pulled his daughters out of a Head Start daycare in Otterville after one of his daughters said another child tried to "expose himself" to her and called her expletives on March 29.

James Franklin said a teacher told him his daughter was the fifth child in three weeks to whom the child had exposed himself.

Franklin said he stayed at the day care the next day to observe what was happening. Franklin said the child was "verbally abusive" to classmates and teachers.

"It's not just him exposing himself to the kids, but he regularly curses at the teachers in the classroom, too," Franklin said. "It's not acceptable for kids to be around."

Franklin said to his knowledge, no other parents were told about the child's behavior unless their child was personally victimized. He said he contacted Head Start's director, Stephanie Verduin, but nothing had been done about the child's presence in the classroom in the five weeks since the behavior began.

Executive Director Tracy Kreipe said the following in a statement: “Illinois Valley Economic Development Corporation is working with staff, parents and outside entities to investigate and resolve the situation at its Otterville Head Start Center, while treating those most vulnerable in our community with compassion and understanding. “

Head Start is a daycare program that, per the company's website, "promote(s) the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families by supporting their development in a comprehensive way."

Franklin said DCFS is involved with the child, and that the day care put on a presentation on "good touch, bad touch" the day he visited the classroom.

DCFS’ Day Care Licensing Unit received a licensing complaint about the daycare, and is looking into the complaint. However, a DCFS spokesman said the agency could not comment further.

Franklin said that while the behavior is not the child's fault and "he has learned it somewhere," he does not think the boy should be able to stay in a classroom with other children.

"Every kid has been potentially exposed to this sexual harassment," he said.

Franklin said Head Start should have notified parents about the behavior. Instead, he said they have not taken adequate action.

"They acted like they were on the verge of having something done, so I just kept my kids home that week," he said. "Then I called again last Wednesday and she thought they would have something. They were unable to say if they could tell the parents. They were not willing to let other parents know what's going on."

Franklin said the child's behavior has been going on for five weeks.

"They're doing what they think they need to do protect one child, but they aren't protecting the other 30 kids in the center," he said. "They have an obligation to him, but they also have an obligation to the other children."

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6