Assistant Principal Zach Ruff got his 15 minutes of fame earlier this year when his cursing tirade against two pro-life teen activists was captured on video. Now he may face legal problems as well, thanks to the footage including evidence that Ruff may have broken the law during his power trip.
Zach Ruff of the Downingtown STEM Academy was captured on video this spring walking out of the school and accosting Lauren and Connor Haines, who are part of a “Christian activist network” that shows graphic abortion images.
He told them he’s gay, said they and aborted children “can go to hell” and screamed that fetuses aren’t human but rather “cells,” as he blocked them from interacting with passers-by:
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.
Ruff’s behavior was illegal, Superintendent Emilie Lonardi said in a July 7 letter to the siblings and their parents that’s included in the school district’s 19-page settlement, made public Thursday:
You had every right under our constitution’s First Amendment to speak and display signs like you did, and that right was violated by Dr. Ruff. Rest assured that Dr. Ruff’s actions do not represent the policy of the School District. Instead, we will be providing information to our employees on the First Amendment rights of individuals. We are committed to preventing incidents like this from happening in the future and will instruct school employees not to violate anyone’s Free Speech rights on public sidewalks outside our schools again.
The school district changed its policies to specifically reflect the Haines and Ruff dispute, which included the assistant principal “attempting to rip a sign out of their hands, which could constitute assault and battery in Pennsylvania,” the siblings’ lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom said Thursday.
I get Ruff’s frustration. He simply had to be in that spot to perform his duties, and he was confronted by young people with politics very different from his own. I get that.
What I also get is that he completely crossed the line. He believed that, in his role as a school administrator, he was justified in protecting his students not just from potential physical harm, but also from what he considered harmful opinions. Sorry, the only harmful behavior here came in the form of his actions. He tried to violate someone’s First Amendment rights, and engaged in a possible assault.
This is not someone to trust to educate our children.