DES PLAINES, IL — Three teachers at a suburban Chicago area day-care center have been arrested for feeding gummy bears containing the sleep aid Melatonin to a class of two-year-olds — without permission from the children’s parents.
Kiddie Junction Daycare Center employees Ashley Helfenbein, 25; Jessica Heyse, 19; and Kristen Lauletta, 32, were charged with battery and child endangerment.
The teachers reportedly gave the chemical-laced candies to the 12 children in their care to calm them down before nap time. The three women told investigators they did not believe Melatonin could be dangerous, as it was an over-the-counter supplement.
While no students have been reported as getting sick from the candies, a warning on the bottle makes it clear that Melatonin should not be taken by small children.
The daycare center’s executive director reportedly discovered the practice last Friday and contacted police immediately.
Des Plains Police Chief Bill Kushner stated that Kiddie Junction’s owner and executive director have been open and helpful with the investigation. He also said officers found the knockout gummy supply:
“It was supposed to be a 120-count bottle, and I believe there were four or five left in the bottle, so this had been ongoing for some time.”
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has opened its own investigation into the daycare center and the three teachers.
Parents expressed shock, but many are continuing to take their children to Kiddie Junction and say that they support the daycare center.
As one anonymous mom told the press:
“Kiddie Junction is an awesome place, my son has been here for awhile now and the teachers have been awesome for the most part, other than these three bad apples.”
The three accused teachers are due back in court on April 4.
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Main photos: Ashley Helfenbein, Jessica Heyse, Kristen Lauletta [Des Plaines Police Dept]