Hell hath no fury like a father scorned.

"I got angry when I was denied a voice and I thought that was the wrong way to treat a parent," Chris Bentley said. "I will be here, come Hell or high water."

Bentley, 45, is running for a seat on the Hesperia Unified School District school board. But his decision stems from an eight-month dispute with district officials in 2005.

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, Bentley grew up all over the country, and remained a nomad after joining the Marine Corps. Following his honorable discharge, he married a woman who ended up joining the Army, and his family moved around the country as her postings changed. After his wife left the service, she joined Aramark Correctional Services before hiring on with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The family moved to Hesperia in 2000, when she was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Adelanto.

All the while, Bentley worked a variety of jobs, from training the unemployed in restaurant work to trucking.

"At this point, I was getting tired finding a job every time we moved."

When the family got the news that Bentley's wife was pregnant with triplets, the decision seemed obvious: One parent would have to stay home to raise the three girls, and a stay at home dad was born.

Five years after the family moved to Hesperia, their son was attending Maple Elementary School, and that's where the trouble began.

"They had this family curriculum night, two weeks before [California Standardized Testing and Reporting] testing."

The California Department of Education makes the previous year's tests available to schools and parents to help prepare students. Bentley estimates 65 percent of the second grade test that year were multiplication and division problems, which his son hadn't yet learned, only weeks before the tests began.

"We're setting up our kids to fail."

He asked his son's principal why his son hadn't been taught the material necessary to pass the test. He was told, he said, not to worry about it.

"I said 'OK, my kid's not going to take your test.' Under [the federal] No Child Left Behind [law], that's every parent's right," Bentley said.

He was informed that, for the week of testing, his son would sit in the library each day. Instead, Bentley decided to take his son on a field trip for the week, taking him to museums in San Francisco.

He returned home to find a letter from the HUSD, informing him that his second grade son was considered truant. (Student attendance is the basis for Average Daily Attendance payments to the district from the state, and absent students not out sick are labeled truant for accounting purposes.) He appealed the decision, and eventually ended up in front of school board president Eric Swanson, Superintendent Dick Bray and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Rob Challinor.

"They pretty much said 'this is not your area of expertise, Mr. Bentley. Don't worry about it,'" Bentley said. "Wrong thing to say to the wrong person."

That's putting it mildly.

Within the year, the stay at home father had become a regular at school board meetings, a frequent contributor to newspaper opinion pages and a fixture at the HUSD's new Main Street headquarters where, under the California Public Records Act, he regularly requests information about all aspects of how the school district operates. That's put him in regular contact with HUSD attorney Tristan Pelayes, who at times has to fine-tune Bentley's requests so as to comply with the law while not tying up too much of the district's staff for too many hours. And Pelayes, whose firm is under contract to the district, does it on the clock, running up legal bills in the thousands of dollars as a result.

Bentley is battling, he says, for accountability and openness from the Hesperia Unified School District. If elected to the school board, he'd have a new tool to get district employees to share information: He would vote against approving the district's monthly payroll unless district employees complied with board requests for more information.

Most of all, he said, he wants to see what he feels he was denied: empowerment for HUSD parents.

"Parents are the silver bullet. You have got to reach outside [district employees] into the community."

If elected, Bentley said he'd work to expand parental dialogue, bringing together parents from various HUSD schools, to "create another collective body of interested parties."

"From birth to age 18, kids spend 8 percent of their life" in school, he said. "That 92 percent [of the rest of their life] has to be part of educational policy."

His battles with the HUSD and the resulting expenses have made him a controversial figure in the district. Bentley won't be dissuaded.

"Parents have been ignored for a very, very long time," he said. "There's already too many competing interests."

Chief among those interests are the two unions that together represent nearly all the employees in the HUSD.

"Unions are for collective bargaining. That's what they're there for," he said. "I do not believe that [California School Employees Association president] Ruth Ter Kurst has my kids' best interest at heart when she gets up and rails about the two photographers that are losing their jobs."

The district's and state's current financial woes are likely to stretch out over the course of several years, and Bentley says more difficult cuts will be necessary.

"The financial difficulties facing the district right now have to be evaluated across the board," he said. "How does this impact the student? The farther it is away from the student, the more viable it is."

That might sound like good news for teachers, but Bentley would hold them to a higher standard as well.

"We need to ensure, particularly in the math and science arenas, our children are being educated by subject matter experts, with science and math degrees, and not [master's degrees] in education."

Bentley knows he's a long shot: He's been loudly critical of district staff, school board members and fellow candidate Swanson. In turn, he's regularly attacked in online forums and his information requests from the district, and the resulting legal fees, are regularly brought up during school board meetings.

But Bentley said he doesn't mind, so long as parents like him get the voice he says they deserve.

"I can get 200 votes or 12,000," he said. "I am going to keep swimming upstream. I am going to keep body checking. I have a constituency of four [children]. That's who I'm representing."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.