Video released of incident between former Fresno Unified school principal and student

Brian Vollhardt was principal at Wolters Elementary School, but he resigned during the investigation into his actions in June.

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Friday, September 9, 2022
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A former Fresno Unified principal is charged with child abuse and endangerment after being recorded shoving a 10-year-old student with special needs.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A former Fresno Unified principal is charged with misdemeanor child abuse and endangerment after a school camera recorded him shoving a 10-year-old student with special needs to the ground.

Brian Vollhardt was principal at Wolters Elementary School last year, but he resigned during the investigation into his actions in June.

The victim's guardian considers the boy her son. She told Action News she's angry that he quickly got another job as a vice principal in another district.

Video from a cafeteria camera makes it clear: Wolters Elementary School principal Brian Vollhardt shoved a student with special needs.

The boy's guardian, Ann Frank, says Vollhardt called her and said the 10-year-old assaulted him and she should come pick up the boy.

Almost immediately, the boy told Ms. Frank it was the principal who was violent and knocked him to the ground.

It took three months before Fresno Unified shared this video with Ms. Frank and she saw exactly what happened.

"You cannot put force to these kids like that," Ms. Frank said. "My son is autistic. Any parents seeing this video, they know what I'm feeling right now. My son was pushed with force by this principal who was supposed to protect him."

Fresno Unified put Vollhardt on administrative leave within a couple days and he resigned during the investigation.

Superintendent Bob Nelson called Vollhardt's behavior "repugnant".

And he said the video could be triggering, especially for the African-American community seeing a white principal shoving a Black 10-year-old boy.

"While there's been zero information to lead us to believe this was a racially motivated altercation, we are not blind to the fact that racial dynamics are always present," Nelson said.

Ms. Frank didn't blame the incident on racism, but she said Vollhardt frequently bullied her boy and tried to provoke him.

The district is offering resources for students, families, and teachers who are bothered by what they saw.

They also notified the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) about Vollhardt's behavior.

"We don't believe any K-12 district should tolerate this type of behavior," said FUSD spokeswoman Nikki Henry. "However, we don't make that decision for other districts. The state does."

The school district and police released the video Thursday, three months after the incident.

In that time, the principal resigned and found a new job in another school district, which had the child's guardian angry enough to find a lawyer.

"Anybody looking at that video, they don't need three months to come to community and disclose what went on at this school," said Jason Bell of Baradat & Paboojian.

Bell says he'll file a government claim against Fresno Unified as soon as Friday, paving the way for a lawsuit.

Golden Plains Unified made the decision to hire Vollhardt as the Tranquillity High School vice principal shortly after he left Fresno Unified.

CTC's website shows Vollhardt has an active certificate and no adverse reports. He even has a specialized certification for handling students with autism.

"He doesn't deserve to work in anybody else's school if he's working in one," Ms. Frank said. "He doesn't need to handle anybody else's kids. Who's to say how many other kids he's done this to?"

Vollhardt hung up when an Action News reporter called him and identified himself as an ABC30 reporter.

But he has talked to police about the incident.

An arrest warrant affidavit shows he said the boy was yelling and getting in his face.

Vollhardt said the boy made fists and pressed them against the principal, which caused him to shove the victim.

The case lingered for months at the Fresno Police Department until the victim's guardian complained two weeks ago about the lack of charges.

Chief Paco Balderrama says he's upset he didn't see the video until a couple days ago and he's implementing changes so even misdemeanor violence gets reviewed by a supervisor.

Golden Plains Unified administrators told Action News late Thursday they found out about the incident Wednesday and saw the video on Thursday with everyone else.

They placed Vollhardt on administrative leave the same day.

He's also scheduled in court for arraignment later this month.