Parents sue school district, principal after their son is assaulted.
In June 2022, Brian Vollhardt, who, at the time, was the principal at Wolters Elementary in Fresno, California, was seen shoving a student to the floor in front of other students and staff after the student pointed at him. The student was later identified as being autistic.
Following the incident, authorities charged Vollhardt with a misdemeanor for child abuse and endangerment. The school district also suspended him several days following the event, after which he resigned on his own. He then went on to become the Vice Principal of the Golden Plains Unified School District but was placed on leave following a news conference held on the issue. Many families were not happy with the move and fear the principal will engage in the same misconduct at this new district.
Now, Ann Frank, the guardian of the student is suing both the ex-principal and Fresno Unified School District. Attorney Jason Bell seeks unspecified damages for the child’s physical and mental pain on the part of the administrator and negligence on the school district’s part.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the guardian and the student, accuses Vollhardt of assault, harassment, and battering. It goes on to state that the student suffered, “humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress, mental and physical pain and anguish, frustration, fear, and loss of dignity and self-esteem” due to Vollhardt’s actions.
Filed in late-December, the legal action also alleges that the district was negligent in the hiring, supervision, training, and investigation of Brian Vollhardt. Additionally, it claims the district is responsible for the failure of its staff to promptly report the incident. The district denies such claims and insists that the incident was reported in a timely manner, as evidenced by the following timeline:
- June 7th – The incident took place.
- June 8th – The Fresno United School District Placed Brian Vollhardt on administrative leave following which an investigation was launched.
- June 9th – The incident was reported to the Fresno Police Department and Child Protective Services by the FUSD’s human resources department. The Fresno Police Department admits to a failure in their handling of the case, which led to a delay in the criminal investigation.
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing was contacted within days of the incident as well, as confirmed by FUSD officials. However, as of early January 2023, Brian Vollhardt’s credentials remained untouched.
This wasn’t the child’s first run-in with Vollhardt, either. Public records indicate that a previous incident occurred on May 27, 2022, where Vollhardt is alleged to have pinned the same student on the floor for about 2-4 minutes in response to a call for support from another district employee. The details of this incident were only uncovered in the investigation into the incident the following month, and was not reported to any authorities. It is unclear why the administrator continued to target the child.
A case management conference focusing on the details of these issues will be held on April 19, 2023, and at that time, a jury trial is expected to be scheduled.