Last night students and parents rallied at the Downingtown Area School District’s board meeting to speak on behalf of Assistant Principal Zach Ruff. Ruff was caught on video shouting profanities and otherwise demeaning and accosting a pair of teenagers for displaying images of aborted children to students outside of his school, Downingtown STEM Academy.
The video, posted by abolitionists Conner and Lauren Haines, drew national attention last week, with many denouncing Ruff’s abusive treatment of teenagers, and many others accusing the Haines siblings of targeting him. A petition launched by Ruff’s supporters has garnered more than 43,000 signatures. A statement by a petition representative who requested to remain unnamed, read:
As Downingtown STEM students, we do not condone the language used by Dr. Ruff directed at the pro-life protestors two fridays ago. However we would like to say that the actions taken by Dr. Ruff were both morally and legally justified, and as such he should continue his critical role at the STEM Academy as the Dean of Academics and Student Life.
We would also like to inform Dr. Ruff that the vast majority of STEM students are standing with him, including 41,500 students, graduates, and other members of the community who signed a petition to see Dr. Ruff continue in his vital role at STEM. When this incident broke out, we were terrified that we were going to lose a great mentor, leader and backbone of our academy. The reason we created this petition was to show the overwhelming support we have for Dr. Ruff, and to voice our desire to keep him as our Dean of Academics and Student Life, especially because he was attempting to protect his students.
During the meeting, the theme of protecting students from “radical” and “extremist” protesters echoed throughout the forty minutes allocated by the board for community comments on the situation. Maureen Pomeroy was one of many who expressed concern that Dr. Ruff was “provoked by these protesters in order to sensationalize the situation.” Others, like Emma Carr, stated that the “extremists’ agenda” would jeopardize the “health, safety and well-being of thousands of children.”
Various tales were spun, and arguments leveraged to denounce the character of these teen agitators. They were accused of banging on windows, obstructing traffic, intimidating students etc. for the “hour and a half” that they were allegedly present at STEM that day. “But keep in mind, protesters that come to a school with their cameras rolling — is that the way a peaceful protest normally starts?” objected one Maisy Meyer, who finds it apparently unreasonable that a peaceful protester might wear a body camera for protection, such as protection from a raging principal.
However unlike Ruff’s behavior, none of the accusations against the Haines have been substantiated, as one dissenting speaker pointed out.
Pro-choicer Mike Roe was one of only three speakers who offered a different perspective on the situation:
Whatever they say, I’m sure that the school video cameras are going to record whether or not Conner and his sister were banging on windows, okay? It’s kind of funny, in these days where cameras are ubiquitous, where these kids are [always on] their cell phones, that none of them caught Conner and his sister banging on windows. Isn’t that amazing? I’m amazed you guys didn’t catch that; I really am. I think that’s made up.
So basically what I hear is that kids are afraid of being exposed to other people’s ideas. I never thought I would say the word, “snowflake,” but it seems like I live in a town full of snowflakes, that people are afraid of other people’s ideas. I personally am pro-choice. But what I really am is first amendment. Those kids weren’t hurting anybody…
[This is] what’s embarrassing to Downingtown: it’s that you have a man who knew he was on camera, and he felt safe in berating a sixteen-year-old who did nothing but address him as ‘sir’. Were the Haines kids ever anything but civil? Where’s that camera?
I’m just shocked that people are so afraid of other people’s ideas. Every kid in this school district has a computer; half of them watch The Walking Dead, and they’re afraid of pictures of fetuses that have been aborted? Abortion’s a reality, and a good many of American people believe that it’s wrong. It is reasonable to debate it; people debate it all the time. It’s a reasonable thing that people do…
I happen to know the Haines kids, and I would love to see a video of them being violent. If anyone’s got it, I’ll join your camp.
When asked about the conduct of STEM students and parents over the last few weeks, Dawn Haines, mother of the activists said:
It’s been very sad; it grieves my heart as a mom. We were out there yesterday with [abolitionist Elizabeth Joy] and her family, and all my children were out there, and the hardest part was watching mother after mother drive by with their kids in the car, giving a thumbs-down or loser sign, or the middle finger, or cursing out the window, several of them, and shaking their heads. Then knowing what some of those parents have posted online — vile, vulgar, very crass — negative, hateful words.
Really they’ve employed the right person for the job, because he exemplifies their personal values. So what they’ve taught their children at home he’s continuing to teach at school, and the students are following suit. They either ignored us, and walked out like robots, or they’ve been angry and belligerent, and using four-letter words to express themselves.
Such conduct in public schools across the nation, when contrasted with the quality of character found in children who are homeschooled by godly parents, often leads abolitionists to question the very concept and validity of a government school.
We really believe that God’s word is very clear in Deuteronomy 6, that we are to teach our children when we sit, when we rise, when we are along the way, and it’s very tricky to do that when your children are away from you for the majority of the day. I’m not saying that it’s not possible for children to possibly be at a Christian school, if they’re in a single parent home; that may be their only option.
But unfortunately, you also go to Proverbs 1, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,’ so there’s no knowledge in the public schools because there is no fear of God. So while Christian schools may still have fear of God, there’s none of that in public schools. So public school was never in the equation for our family, because the fear of the Lord is missing.
Whatever arguments are made in justifying Dr. Ruff’s future at STEM Academy, the Downingtown School District has a far greater challenge than to decide whether or not he can remain; they need to start justifying their own existence as an institution. What exactly gives the state the right to educate children? It hasn’t always been their jurisdiction in our nation, and from a biblical worldview, education is always the domain, duty and jurisdiction of the parents, never the state.
Given the character of students flowing out of STEM Academy, what was once considered the finest government school in all of Pennsylvania, questions are now being raised about the quality and content of government education. Considering the many accusations raised by students against the Haines children, made without a shred of evidence, and given the complete disregard for human beings who are constantly being murdered all around STEM Academy, what reason can STEM or any other public school provide for its continued influence over our children?
Comments from the district are being withheld until the next board meeting.