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Ex-school principal accused of ‘willful cruelty’ after video shows him shoving student

“There’s no excuse for repugnant behavior such as this,” the school district superintendent said.

A former elementary school principal was accused of abusing a 9-year-old student after video showed him shoving the child to the ground, officials said Thursday.

Brian Vollhardt, who resigned from Wolters Elementary School in Fresno after the school district launched an investigation into the June 7 altercation, faces a charge of willful cruelty to a minor, police and school officials said during a Thursday news conference.

Court records show Vollhardt is scheduled to be arraigned for the alleged crime, a misdemeanor, on Sept. 26.

“There’s no excuse for repugnant behavior such as this,” school district superintendent Bob Nelson told reporters.

A video of the incident was released by the Fresno Unified School District and Fresno police with some faces blurred.

School principal Brian Vollhardt shoves a special needs student.
School principal Brian Vollhardt shoves a special needs student. Fresno Unified and Fresno Police Dept

Nelson said the incident occurred after Vollhardt joined a group of students eating breakfast. Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama described the boy as a “special needs” student, though he did not provide additional details.

“When you have a child that is special needs, 9-years-old, and in an environ where he should be supported and protected and that does not occur that constitutes a crime,” Balderrama said.

The boy can be seen walking away before he approaches Vollhardt again and points.

“Instead of de-escalating the situation, which is what we’d expect of an educator in our system, the former principal aggressively shoves the student down instead,” Nelson said of what the video appeared to show.

A message left on a number listed under Vollhardt’s name was not immediately returned.

Vollhardt reported the incident to the district, as did other adults in the room, Nelson said. The boy’s guardian also contacted the school about it, he said.

Balderrama said school officials reported the altercation on June 9, but he said that he didn’t see the video until Tuesday.

“I will acknowledge some system failures that were uncovered during this case,” he said.

Under a previous practice, he said, the department “suspended” investigations of misdemeanor crimes because of the volume of such cases. Now, all misdemeanor assault cases will be reviewed, he said.

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