Head Start children to begin interviews in the wake of inappropriate punishment

The mother of a child who was allegedly forced to stand naked in a locked closet as punishment at the Head Start/ Early Head Start Program classroom, in East St. Louis, Illinois, filed a lawsuit against two employees, Shavonda Willis and another defendant referred to as “Ms. Mary” in the suit, on April 17 in the Madison County Circuit Court.

The claim states the child, who is younger than 5 years old, was subject to this punishment on “one or more occasions” and was locked in the room while undressed. It also states the child “has a constitutional right to be free of being stripped down naked and placed by his teachers in a locked closet or room.” The plaintiff asked in the lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as other costs such as attorney fees, in excess of $50,000.

As The Alestle previously reported, police concluded their investigation after children were interviewed on April 3, 4 and 5 at the Child Advocacy Center in Belleville, Illinois.

As of yesterday, Willis and Mary Agbehia are facing charges of aggravated battery and unlawful restraint. Both have bails set in the amount of $5,000.

According to a statement regarding employment status of the Head Start employees issued by SIUE Director of Human Resources Robert Thumith, upon learning the charges issued by the State Attorney’s Office, the employees will not be returning to duty at Head Start at this time. The statement also said the employees will remain on Administrative Leave until further notice.

The Alestle will update as more information becomes available.

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