Photo: Getty
  /  09.10.2022

A former California principal has been charged after being caught on camera shoving an autistic student. The incident took place on June 7. However, the video began circulating in the news and on social media this week.

Brian Vollhardt was the principal at Wolters Elementary School when he was captured talking to an 11-year-old student in the school’s cafeteria. As the upset child pointed his finger in Vollhardt’s face, the administrator reached out and shoved him to the ground. At least three other adults were present for the incident. 

The details of what led up to the heated encounter have not been disclosed. On Wednesday (Sept. 7), Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson and Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama held a joint press conference announcing that Vollhardt had been charged with “cruelty to child by endangering health.” 

“Instead of de-escalating the situation, which is what we expect of an educator in our system, the former principal chose to aggressively shove the student down instead. There’s no excuse for repugnant behavior such as this,” Nelson said. Balderrama added that he was only made aware of the incident on Tuesday (Sept. 6). “I as police chief want to be notified any time there’s an assault this serious [that] occurs in any one of our schools. That didn’t happen in this case,” he said.

The child’s guardian, Ann Frank, told KFSN News it took the district three months before they revealed the surveillance footage to her. “You cannot put force to these kids like that. My son is autistic. Any parents seeing this video know what I’m feeling right now. My son was pushed with force by this principal who was supposed to protect him,” she said.

While under investigation by the district, Vollhardt resigned as principal. According to CNN, shortly after his resignation, Vollhardt was hired as a vice principal about 30 miles west of Fresno in the Golden Plains Unified School District. On Thursday (Sept. 8), the district’s superintendent said he was notified of the shoving incident.

“In light of the video and the filed charges against Mr. Vollhardt, Golden Plains Unified School District took immediate action. As of today, Mr. Vollhardt has been placed on administrative leave,” said Superintendent Martín Macías. 

His statement continued, “Golden Plains Unified School District is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our students. It is the sole intention of the district to comply with active district policies and procedures as well as state law. We will be working closely with our legal counsel, as more information is available.” View the surveillance footage below.

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