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Former principal charged with shoving special needs student to the ground

‘My son was pushed with force by this principal who was supposed to protect him,’ says child’s guardian

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Saturday 10 September 2022 20:22 BST
Principal aggressively pushes autistic child at school in California

A former school principal in California has been charged with misdemeanour child abuse and endangerment after footage emerged of him shoving a 10-year-old special needs student to the ground.

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

Ann Frank, the victim’s guardian, who considers the boy her son, says Mr Vollhardt called her and said the 10-year-old assaulted him and she should come to pick him up.

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 the security camera video with Ms Frank and it clearly shows that it was Mr Vollhardt who shoved the student.

“You cannot put force to these kids like that,” Ms Frank told ABC 30 Action News. “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 school district put Mr Vollhardt on administrative leave within a couple of days and he resigned during the investigation. Superintendent Bob Nelson called his behavior “repugnant”.

Mr Nelson says the student is physically OK but has been offered emotional support.

It has also been acknowledged by the district that the video could be triggering for the African-American community to see a white principal shove a Black 10-year-old.

“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,” Mr Nelson said.

Ms Frank has not blamed the incident on racism, but she said Mr Vollhardt frequently bullied the boy and tried to provoke him.

Ms Frank is also angry that Mr Vollhardt quickly got another job as a vice principal in the Golden Plains Unified School District.

Martin Marcias, that school district’s superintendent, told CNN they were made aware of the incident on Wednesday and have since placed Mr Vollhardt on administrative leave.

Roger Wilson, Mr Vollhardt’s lawyer, said he has asked the district attorney’s office for more information and cannot make an informed statement regarding the incident until he receives discovery. In the meantime, he says he has scheduled a court date for Mr Vollhardt.

Officials have notified the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing about Mr Vollhardt’s behaviour.

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