Some East St. Louis residents wondered why two teachers were not fired for the shocking discipline they allegedly imposed on their preschool students.
The two East St. Louis Head Start teachers were placed on paid administrative leave after they were accused of forcing their young students to strip off all of their clothes and stand in a closet as part of their punishment for misbehaving, KMOV-TV reported on Tuesday.
Residents of the community who spoke with the news outlet were outraged.
“As a mother myself, I can’t believe they would let something like this go on,” said Lakysha Jeffries.
Marquis Ginger stated, “Something needs to be done to the teachers as far as what’s going on.”
The teachers and students were part of the Head Start program operated by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Police Chief Kevin Schmoll said the teachers would make the 4 and 5-year-old children disrobe and stand for five or 10 minutes in the closet when they misbehaved. After their punishment, the teachers would allow them to get dressed and join the class.
Schmoll added that the punishment involved four of the 20 students in the class and started in early February. However, the police were first notified about it last week.
“We felt that was very inappropriate and possible there’s some criminal action and some charges could come from this,” Schmoll said.
The 26-year-old teacher accused of administering the punishment has been a Head Start teacher at the center for three years. A second teacher, 41, worked five years in the program and allegedly witnessed the inappropriate punishment but failed to report it.
What allegedly took place in the preschool program is certainly a strange situation, which could eventually land the teachers in court when the police investigation is finished.
Nationwide, school districts have grappled with how to discipline students effectively. St. Louis Public Schools, for example, has wrestled with that issue.
In 2016, the school district announced changes to how it would discipline its youngest students. School officials said they would ban out-of-school suspensions of preschool through second-grade students. Instead, the misbehaving pupils will receive counseling.
That new approach stemmed from a report that said Missouri led the nation in disproportionately suspending Black elementary school students. St. Louis Public Schools topped other cities within the state.
The two teachers could face serious punishment. The St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office was working with the police to decide if criminal charges should be brought against the teachers.