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6-year-old allegedly locked in jail cell as part of school field trip

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A 6-year-old was allegedly locked in a jail cell as part of a school field trip (AP/Rich Pedroncelli/file)

It was supposed to be a field trip to a public library for 6-year-old Stephen Stovall and his classmates. Instead, the kindergartner told his Mom that found himself locked in jail.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that parents at Sunnyside Elementary were told their children would be taking a visit to a library and even signed waivers stating such. The children were instead taken to the local Hillside Police Station, where they were shown guns and ankle bracelet monitors. Stovall says he was then temporarily locked inside a jail cell at the station.

"Is this supposed to be a scared-straight tactic?" Stovall's mother Carmen Ware told the paper. "For 6-year-olds? I don't get this. What exactly is Sunnyside School saying—that it is a temporary holding facility for the jailhouse?"

The Sun-Times originally reported that Stovall had been locked in the jail cell, but Hillside Police Chief Joseph M. Lukaszek now disputes the child's claim, telling the paper, "They were never placed in jail cells. We have six jail cells not once were they placed in jail cells. They walked past one of our cells, the door was open. They were shown a bed and a toilet. Nobody was allowed in. I think the young man, because he was in our holding area, and the holding area has bars, he may have interpreted it as a jail cell, because he didn't know the difference."

The story comes just two days after a 6-year-old girl in Georgia was handcuffed and detained by police after an alleged "tantrum."

The form signed by Sunnyside parents reportedly describes an "educational field trip" to the "Hillside Public Library and Village Hall."

Stovall's mother learned of her son's trip to jail only after she asked him what he did that day at school.

"He said he was shown a vest and holster that holds a gun, and something that goes on your ankle, and he was put in a jail cell and the door was locked," Ware told the Sun-Times.

The school has not yet responded to complaints from Ware or other parents. However, the Cook County Sheriff's Department said such visits are a routine part of its "Motivational and Responsibility Training," program, but only for much older students.

"We would never allow kindergartners in the jail and we do not lock up any kids in cells," a department spokeswoman told the paper.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the police station's denial, along with the correct location of the police station, which was incorrectly stated in the original Sun-Times article.

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