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East St. Louis teacher accused of making preschool children disrobe as punishment

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

A teacher at a Head Start program in East St. Louis has been accused of forcing preschool children to get naked and stand in a closet as punishment as another teacher witnessed it but did nothing.

The Head Start program, which serves students around the ages of 4 and 5, is operated by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center. SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll said Monday that the two teachers were placed on paid administrative leave.

According to Schmoll, a supervisor at the center alerted police on March 14 that a teacher there was making kids who misbehaved disrobe, then making them stand inside a closet with the door open for five to 10 minutes as punishment before they could put their clothes back on and rejoin the class. Schmoll said at least one child had witnessed another being punished this way.

Three detectives were sent to the center to investigate as soon as police were notified, Schmoll said. The Department of Child and Family Services was contacted immediately to interview the kids.

At least four of the 20 students in the class were disciplined this way, Schmoll said, and this had been going on since early February.

“This is 1) inappropriate and 2) illegal,” Schmoll said, noting that there were no signs of physical or sexual abuse against the children.

KMOV 4 reported that the teacher accused of disciplining the students is 26 years old and has three years’ experience at the center, while the teacher accused of seeing the acts and not reporting them to authorities is 41 years old and has five years’ experience.

Schmoll said the children will be interviewed April 3-5 by forensic investigators with DCFS and the Child Advocacy Center in Belleville. The St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office will work with police to decide if criminal charges should be brought against the teachers.

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Hana Muslic has been working the public safety beat for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.


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