Downingtown assistant principal who cursed at teen abortion protesters resigns

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Zach Ruff, 40, the dean of academics and student life at Downingtown STEM Academy, who confronted anti-abortion protesters, resigns..

Zach Ruff, the Downingtown assistant principal who was videotaped cursing at and berating teen abortion protesters outside Downingtown STEM Academy, resigned Thursday, the school district said in a news release.

The resignation came a day after students presented the school board with a stack of 50,000 signatures in support of the administrator, who this year earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Drexel University.

About 25 students, led by Zach Ng, one of those who started the petition drive, waited  several hours as the school board honored retiring teachers and concluded the meeting's business before allowing them to deliver the petition.

Ruff was put on administrative leave April 21 after yelling, cursing, singing, and even dancing during the confrontation with Connor and Lauren Haines, brother and sister protesters who stood on a sidewalk with signs as students were leaving school for the day.

Ruff repeatedly asked them to leave, and they calmly explained that they had a right to be on the sidewalk as Ruff got angrier and more confrontational.

Last Friday, the administrator appeared at a school district hearing, after which he was suspended without pay.

The district said Ruff indicated at the hearing that he might resign but requested more time to review the charges, which included violating the protesters' First Amendment rights, said Michael Levin, the attorney representing the district.

“Dr. Ruff has acknowledged that the demonstrators had a right to be on a public sidewalk,” the news release said.

“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."

Ruff’s attorney, Thomas Kelly, did not immediately return calls for comment.

The Haineses, who do not attend Downingtown schools, say they have been attacked online  since the incident. Earlier this month, they were interviewed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. They are represented by the faith-based Alliance Defending Freedom.

The pair had demanded an apology and a public acknowledgment from the district that they had the right to be on the STEM school sidewalk. On Thursday, they got it.

“The two demonstrators had a right to be on a public sidewalk and a legal right to speak there as well,” the statement said.

Ruff worked in the district for 13 years. He was a history teacher and assistant principal at Downingtown High School East, and joined the elite science and technology-based STEM Academy in 2013. His supporters said that while they did not approve of his behavior on April 21, he is an outstanding educator who cares deeply for his students, whom he was trying to protect from the protesters.

After reviewing video of the incident, the school district evidently agreed with that assessment.

“In reviewing the video,” the news release said, “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.”

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