DOWNINGTOWN, Pa — Dr. Zach Ruff, the high school assistant principal who became the center of controversy after berating two teenage abolitionists April 21 outside Downingtown STEM Academy, resigned this morning.
A statement released by Downingtown Area School District today stated that “Dr. Ruff knew that the conduct he displayed was not representative of who he is and was not representative of the kind of educational leader he prided himself on being. Dr. Ruff has acknowledged that the demonstrators had a right to be on a public sidewalk. He acknowledged that his conduct cannot be defended or condoned and he deeply regretted the actions as displayed on the video.”
After a video filmed by abolitionist Conner Haines revealed Ruff yelling expletives at Haines and his sister Lauren, blocking their signs, and demanding that they not exercise their right to speak on a public sidewalk, the school placed Ruff on administrative leave pending an investigation. Last Friday after a “Loudermill” hearing, he was suspended without pay.
During the weeks following the video’s release, hundreds of students, parents, and citizens rallied on social media and at school board meetings to defend Ruff. A petition supporting the former Dean of Student Life garnered nearly 53,000 signatures. Many of Ruff’s supporters insisted that his behavior was either intentionally provoked or justified.
Petition signer Mark S. wrote, “Mr Ruff should be congratulated for keeping his students safe from any danger, including psychotic religious extremists. If parents choose to brainwash their children at home that is their right, but at school we need more people like Mr. Ruff to protect our kids.”
Others harassed the Haines siblings on social media, and many repeated allegations that the Haines siblings were blocking traffic, banging on car windows, and creating a safety hazard before the filming started. However, according to the DASD statement, school surveillance video that captured the confrontation did not substantiate these allegations.
School representatives were quick to censure Ruff’s behavior. An April 27 post on the school’s Facebook page read, “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.”
School district Superintendent Lawrence Mussoline also condemned Ruff’s conduct in an April 28 newsletter, stating that what he saw in the video was “comportment that was, quite frankly, something that I would never have expected from this educational leader.”
The school’s statement today again affirmed that the school district will not interfere with anyone’s First Amendment rights.
But the Haines siblings said they do not want the important message they initially brought to the school to be overshadowed by a discussion about their rights.
During an appearance on the Tucker Carlson show, Conner Haines said, “Our goal in being out there was just to… engage with students about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that if they repent and believe in Jesus Christ they can be set free from their sins.”
Lauren Haines said the two had not initially planned to go to Downingtown STEM. “God had his hand in that situation and He wanted us there, we believe to be able to speak into [Ruff’s] life,” she said.
Haines told the Liberator that his main concern is for Ruff’s eternal salvation, as well as that of his students.
“I’d say that Dr. Ruff did the right thing by resigning even though it was never my intent for any of this to happen,” he said. “I’m praying that Ruff will repent of his sins and believe in Jesus.”
Other abolitionists have expressed similar sentiments on social media.
“I’m sad for him. I’m sad for the kids,” said Elizabeth Joy, who has visited the high school with the Haines siblings since the incident. “Saddest of all is they have so far missed the eternal truth [they have] been trying to convey.”
Haines also released an open letter to Christians in the area who watched the ordeal unfold, reminding them of the reason they went to Downington STEM Academy in the first place—to raise awareness of the plight of the 3,500 preborn human beings who are legally murdered in our nation every day.