The president and CEO of Great Circle, a nonprofit that provides services to children and families, including one in St. James, has been charged with multiple counts of endangering a child, according to a St. Louis TV station.
Vincent D. Hillyer, 59 of Eureka, Mo., was arrested and charged with six counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child - creating substantial risk, second-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child and one count of assault in the fourth degree, according to a story posted on the KMOV-TV website. His bond is set at $205,000.
Former employees say Great Circle's work environment was toxic, unsafe for kids and employees. Someone sent News 4 a video that was recorded by an employee in March. A former employee alleges the video shows Hillyer putting a 12-year-old in a choke hold.
Former employees reported to KMOV that they often questioned Hillyer's tactics and said he was often aggressive with the students. They added that they were fired or laid off because they reported such incidents, adding that others afraid to speak out for fear of being fired.
"I feel like the children aren't safe. They take in children and don't provide the staff with enough training and then when things go wrong, they come and get on the staff," former employee Joice Valentine told the TV station.
The Webster Groves Police Department searched the Great Circle Campus located on 330 North Gore Avenue on Tuesday, May 7. Police responded as the result of an investigation in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division.
Great Circle responded to the arrest with this statement: "Great Circle and the people who work here are fully committed to serving the behavioral health needs of nearly 45,000 children and families each year. 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. Today, we became aware of an investigation by the Webster Groves Police Department related to care provided in a small number of circumstances. While we remain confident in the therapeutic approach used in our facilities, as an organization, we will fully cooperate with all of those who are investigating this matter. Given that this is an ongoing law enforcement investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time."
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