Jeremy Hylka investigated in connection with video referencing propositioning, grooming: diocese

Diocese of Joliet discloses investigation, said video could not be linked to Hylka

The Diocese of Joliet said it investigated Jeremy Hylka earlier this year when officials became aware of a TikTok video referencing a man who was propositioned or groomed by an unnamed teacher.

Diocesan officials said Hylka’s temporary suspension from St. Joseph Catholic School in Lockport was not disclosed to parents as it was a “confidential personnel matter” and because the account in the video could not be “clearly linked to Hylka.”

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, diocesan officials released a statement that said Hylka was put on leave in January from his teaching position at St. Joseph’s for two weeks “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The diocese became aware of a Tik Tok video that depicted an adult male lip-synching a song while text scrolled behind him,” the statement read. “The text referenced a high school experience in which he was propositioned or groomed by a teacher, who was not named.”

A “source” contacted the diocese and identified the man in the video, diocesan officials said.

“Because the text in the video referenced a situation similar to that of Hylka’s, the diocese determined the most prudent course of action was to put Hylka on administrative leave while the matter was investigated,” the statement said.

The diocese reached out to the man in the TikTok video but “he wanted to remain anonymous and declined to talk to diocesan officials.”

“Hylka’s leave status was not disclosed to parents because it was a confidential personnel matter and because the account in the video could not be clearly linked to Hylka,” the statement said.

Diocese of Joliet spokeswoman Mary Massingale said the diocese reported the TikTok video to the Joliet Police Department.

Hylka faces charges of traveling to meet a minor and grooming following investigation by Joliet police detectives. Hylka was captured on video apparently attempting to rendezvous with someone he thought was a 15-year-old boy on May 27 at a Joliet McDonald’s.

Joliet police officials announced on Saturday that they learned Hylka was admitted as a patient in a nearby hospital and his attorney indicated he planned to turn himself in upon release from the hospital.

Joliet police Sgt. Dwayne English said early Tuesday afternoon that Hylka had not been released to police custody.

On Friday, Hylka’s wife filed a petition to divorce him. Her attorney issued a summons for Hylka that said he was a patient at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital in New Lenox.

After learning of last week’s allegations regarding Hylka, diocese officials said they “terminated his employment at St. Joseph Catholic School in Lockport and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church and the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus, both in Joliet.”

Hylka had taught theology at Joliet Catholic Academy until last school year. He was then hired for the current academic year to teach science and religion at St. Joseph’s, according to Massingale.

Tuesday’s statement from the diocese said Hylka “applied for the St. Joseph’s teaching position and was vetted like any other candidate.”

Hylka was a youth minister at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Joliet on July 1, 1998, Massingale said. The youth programs at St. Paul’s and the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus were later merged because of low attendance, she said.

Hylka was also a volunteer co-catechist at St. Jude Catholic Church in New Lenox from 2014 to 2015, she said.

Hylka’s final year with Joliet Catholic Academy included a former student calling for his termination over a social media post Hylka liked.

According to a June 3 news release from JCA, the school administration was aware of – and then denounced – a social media post that was “political in nature” and “invoking graphic violence.”

On Thursday, JCA officials released a statement regarding Hylka that said their administration “was made aware of online allegations against said former teacher” on June 2. JCA officials said they informed Joliet police of the allegations and worked with the Diocese of Joliet “regarding the police investigation.”

“The teacher was put on leave and subsequently resigned,” the statement read.

Jeffrey Budz, JCA president and principal, has not answered questions from The Herald-News on what those allegations were.

When asked about the June incident last Friday, Joliet police detective Shawn Filipiak said what the police were “able to determine was that there were third-party, unsubstantiated claims with unknown victims at that time” and charges were never filed.

The Herald-News has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for police reports regarding that investigation.

Massingale said JCA is run by a religious order and is not under the purview of the diocese. She said the diocese was not part of any investigation conducted by JCA or Joliet police regarding Hylka.

Felix Sarver

Felix Sarver covers crime and courts for The Herald-News