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Fresno Police Drop the Ball on Probe of Principal Striking Student



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Even though Fresno police received a video in June depicting then-Wolters Elementary principal Brian Vollhardt striking a student, the case didn’t move to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office until Tuesday, officials said Thursday morning.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama attributed the delay to “system failures” within the police department.

Balderrama and Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson addressed the shocking video during a news conference at district headquarters.

The incident didn’t come to light until after a Fresno Bee education reporter started asking questions about it, The Bee reported Thursday.

“The video was viewed on the day that the report was taken,” Balderrama said. “So we have a portal where victims can upload video. We have obviously a partnership with the Fresno Unified School District. So they were able to upload the video. So that video was viewed. The report was taken by a trainee and a corporal and … I have a copy of that police report. Unfortunately, I should have been notified when that incident took place.”

Balderrama acknowledged that he didn’t learn what happened at Wolters until Tuesday.

“In this particular case, somebody from (human resources at) Fresno Unified and the guardian of the child did reach out over a week ago, and that’s when (a) sergeant reopened the case, started working it. But again, I didn’t become aware of it until two days ago.”

The police chief said that Vollhardt faces a charge of willful cruelty to a minor.

‘Racial Dynamics Always Present,’ Nelson Says

Vollhardt is white and the student is Black — facts noted by Nelson.

“While there’s been zero information to lead us to believe that this was a racially motivated altercation, we are not blind to the fact that racial dynamics are always present,” he said.

Nelson also said that the child wasn’t injured “to our knowledge.”

Watch: Superintendent, Police Chief Address Incident

Tranquillity High Hires Vollhardt

The superintendent said that said Vollhardt resigned from the district after the incident.

According to the California Department of Education, he is now a vice principal at Tranquillity High School.

Nelson said that Tranquillity High leaders didn’t reach out to Fresno Unified about why Vollhardt resigned as Wolters principal.

“The new place will call the previous place of employment as fairly standard practice within educational circles for folks to get a reference call, which we don’t believe took place in this scenario,” he said.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email