Great Circle Academy principal, Vincent Hillyer arrested after video showed him choking a 12-year-old seated on a couch. A policy of aggression at child welfare agency?
The head of a St. Louis child welfare agency in Missouri has been arrested for allegedly choking a 12-year-old seated on a couch.
Vincent Hillyer, president and CEO of Great Circle Academy, was arrested Tuesday after a search of the nonprofit’s facility in Webster Groves, revealed a video allegedly showing Hillyer putting the child in a chokehold.
Notice of the video comes courtesy of a former employee at the child advocacy center KMOV reported.
Following the child caretaker’s arrest, Hillyer, 59, of Eureka, is now facing six counts of endangering the welfare of a child, attempted endangering the welfare of a child and fourth-degree assault.
Great Circle, which has a presence in Springfield, is a behavioral health service for children and families.
A former employee at the facility, Joice Valentine, claimed Hillyer was frequently aggressive with students and that some workers were fired after reporting some of the incidents.
‘I feel like the children aren’t safe,’ Valentine told KMOV. ‘They take in children and don’t provide the staff with enough training and then when things so wrong, they come and get on the staff.’
Vincent Hillyer Great Circle Academy CEO: ‘I merely restrained a child that bit me’.
In the video, allegedly recorded in March, Hillyer can be seen ‘choking a child seated on a couch,’ according to cited court documents. Hillyer’s attorney, Joel Schwartz, disputed that account, saying Hillyer had merely restrained a child who bit him.
Bit him- because….?
‘He doesn’t choke anybody,’ Schwartz said.
Schwartz said the multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a child are apparently connected to an allegation that Hillyer crafted a policy barring staffers from calling police if a child needed help at the child welfare agency and alternative school.
Schwartz denied that allegation as well, saying Hillyer was not on the premises most of the time.
Hillyer, who requested to be placed on administrative leave Wednesday, has been released from custody after posting bail of a hefty $205,000. He’s due back in court June 18.
‘As a board, we have full faith in the Great Circle team and its commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of the nearly 45,000 children and families we serve,’ the child welfare agency said in a statement announcing Hillyer’s leave. ‘Our top priority at all times is the health and well-being of those we exist to serve. Working with young clients who have acute behavioral health needs can often be difficult. We remain confident in the therapeutic approach used in Great Circle facilities.’