First court hearing for ex-Fresno Unified principal charged with child abuse in video incident

Brian Vollhardt, the ex-principal of Wolters Elementary who was caught on camera June 7 shoving a special needs student to the ground, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child abuse and endangerment at his arraignment Monday in Fresno County Superior Court.

Vollhardt was not present in court Monday. The plea was entered on his behalf by his attorney, Roger Wilson.

Judge Gabriel Brickey also issued a restraining order against Vollhardt on behalf of the student he struck “as requested by the people,” he said. Wilson told the court he believes his client owns a firearm and was given 48 hours to ensure it’s transferred.

Members of the student’s family were in attendance at the arraignment. They declined to comment.

Vollhardt is scheduled to appear in court again for a pretrial hearing Oct. 18.

Wilson previously told the Ed Lab Vollhardt’s actions in the video are “completely out of character” for his client, who worked as a special education teacher before becoming an administrator and has credentials to work with students with autism.

Wilson on Friday told the Ed Lab he had yet to receive witness statements from either of the two adults shown in the video.

“I went to the DA’s office to get what I thought would be new discovery, and it was just a CD with the video that everybody in the world has seen,” Wilson said.

In an email, Fresno Police Department spokesperson Lt. Bill Dooley confirmed detectives were still putting “finishing touches” on their case Friday afternoon.

DA’s office spokesperson Taylor Long said in an email that any further discovery “will be turned over as it is received” to Vollhardt’s attorney in time for the arraignment.

Wilson told the Ed Lab last week that his plan was to subpoena Fresno Unified for an investigation report after the arraignment in an effort to get statements from the other adults seen in the June 7 video.

The footage shows two adults nearby, as well as two other adults in the background cleaning cafeteria tables.

“There are two other adults next to my client in the cafeteria. I fully anticipated getting statements from both of those folks — perhaps they were interviewed by somebody, (whether) the police or the school district,” he said. “I’d like to know what they know.”

Police have already admitted to missteps in their handling of Vollhardt’s case that led him to be charged two months after the June 7 incident, following an investigation from the Ed Lab.

Meanwhile another attorney has also filed a claim for damages with Fresno Unified for negligently hiring, retaining, supervising and employing Vollhardt, the claim says.

Jason Bell, who is representing the student’s family, told the Ed Lab he expects the district will deny the claim, which will lead to his client filing a lawsuit that will name both Fresno Unified and Vollhardt as defendants.

Vollhardt has been placed on administrative leave with Golden Plains Unified School District, where he got a job as a vice principal 11 days after resigning from Fresno Unified in August.

Vollhardt also allegedly had at least one prior altercation with this same student, based on a formal complaint obtained by the Ed Lab.

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