The principal of a Pennsylvania high school who was caught yelling profanities at a pro-life teenager resigned from his job Thursday.
Dr. Zach Ruff, an assistant principal at Downingtown STEM Academy in Chester County, initially was placed on administrative leave in April after a video showed him yelling and swearing at a pro-life teenager who was protesting on the sidewalk outside the school.
The Reporter News reports Ruff officially resigned Thursday to the Downingtown Area School Board.
“Dr. Ruff, the school board, administration and all members of the Downingtown Area School District would like to put this terribly unfortunate incident in the past to enable everyone to move forward,” the school district said in a statement. “The two demonstrators had a right to be on a public sidewalk and a legal right to speak there as well.”
The district conducted an investigative hearing with Ruff last Friday and suspended him without pay, the report states. The Philadelphia Daily News reports Ruff indicated at the hearing that he might resign; and several days later, he submitted his resignation.
“Dr. Ruff has acknowledged that the demonstrators had a right to be on a public sidewalk,” the school district said in its statement. “He acknowledged that his conduct cannot be defended or condoned, and he deeply regretted his actions as displayed on the video. This school district will not interfere with the rights of anyone to express themselves.”
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The teenager, Conner Haines, was part of a Christian group called Project Frontlines that was hosting a “holocaust of abortion” display on the public sidewalks outside the school. The pro-lifers showed photos of aborted babies and other information to help educate the public about abortion.
Haines and his sister Lauren captured the incident with Ruff on video and posted it to YouTube. During various points in the 18-minute video, Ruff yelled at the teen, swore at him, threatened to call the police and told the teen to “go to Hell.”
At one point, Ruff told the teen: “I don’t give an (expletive) what Jesus tells me about what I should and should not be doing. You are harassing public school students and I will call the police if you don’t shut up.” Watch the video here.
Last week, the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group sent a letter to the school district on behalf of the teens, asking for an apology. The attorneys also asked the district to send a memorandum to employees, students and parents explaining the constitutionally protected freedom of citizens like the Haines teens to speak on the sidewalks around the school.
Since the incident on April 21, “many Downingtown Public School students (and parents) have followed Ruff’s example—sending Conner and Lauren hundreds of messages indicating they completely misunderstand the concept of Free Speech. In fact, some of those comments were threatening and vulgar,” the ADF letter explains.
While some students, parents and abortion activists have defended Ruff, the school district has been clear in its disapproval of his actions.
“We do not condone or support the conduct expressed in the video and are deeply disappointed that this incident occurred. His conduct does not represent the values of the school district or the respect we expect our employees to show for the civil rights of others,” the district said in a statement in April.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot defended the students in a statement last week.
“No one should ever be harassed and berated by a government employee on a public sidewalk simply for peacefully engaging in one of the most common free speech activities,” Theriot said. “The severity of this situation, as easily seen in the video, makes what we are requesting of the school district so necessary. This can never happen again, and the school district should ensure that both Conner and Lauren—as well as anyone else who would engage in protected free speech—feel confident that it won’t.”