A Pennsylvania public school assistant principal was caught on video screaming and cursing at two teenage pro-life activists April 21 and trying to prevent the teens from talking to students outside the high school.
And after STEM Academy in Downingtown got a gander at the video Wednesday, Zach Ruff — STEM’s dean of academics and student life — was placed on administrative leave, WCAU-TV reported.
Video of the entire incident was shot by Conner Haines, 16, who stood on a sidewalk outside STEM Academy with his 19-year-old sister Lauren, both of them holding pro-life signs as vehicles exited the campus at the end of the school day.
The beginning of the clip shows Ruff walking toward the brother and sister and threatening to call police unless they move. Conner Haines refused, telling Ruff it’s a public sidewalk and inviting him to call police if he wants. With that, Ruff stood in front of the activists in an attempt to block students from seeing the signs.
Conner Haines tried engaging with Ruff about abortion, telling him, “Sir, these are image bearers of God.”
But Ruff turned around, faced the camera, pointed at Haines’ sign showing a photo of an aborted fetus and said, “You can go to hell, where they are, too.”
Ruff was also heard moments later yelling at someone else to “turn off the phone! Doesn’t need to be on Snapchat!”
As Conner Haines continued talking to Ruff, the administrator turned around again and said there hasn’t been a “single pregnancy” in the five years he’s been at STEM and there hasn’t been a “single abortion. And you call me a liar while you’re standing out here harassing teenagers. You can go get a friggin’ life.”
When Haines called the fetuses “children,” Ruff got angrier.
“They’re not children, they’re cells! … You’re at a science-based school, those are cells!” he yelled.
Lauren Haines attempted to interject science, but Ruff shot her down in the middle of her sentence, pointing at his body and saying, “Then take it out, and if it can live on its own, it’s friggin’ awesome.”
He also disputed Conner Haines’ insistence that the aborted fetuses were “innocent.” He shot back with, “They’re not innocent, they’re cells. … They’re the size of a dime, they’re cells.”
But when Conner Haines suggested that Ruff turn to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, the gloves came completely off, as Ruff turned again and stood inches from Haines’ face and issued a scorching rebuttal.
“Listen here son, alright?” Ruff said with a chuckle. “I’m as gay as the day is long and twice as sunny. I don’t give a f*** what you think Jesus tells me and what I should and should not be doing.”
Ruff also called the Bible a “book of fiction” and told Conner Haines that “you and Trump can go to hell.”
Lauren Haines attempted to engage Ruff further, but he gestured closely to her and said, “Shut up and leave me and my children alone.”
Then he got in Conner Haines’ face again.
“Shut your mouth and don’t talk to my students,” Ruff said with a sharp edge, his index finger quivering as he ordered Haines. “You do not have permission to speak and engage.”
When Haines said he had the right to be there, Ruff growled back: “No, you do not. You are harassing public school students, and I will call the police if you don’t shut up.”
Conner Haines told the Liberator that Ruff’s behavior surprised him.
“When [Ruff] was up in my face, my heart started beating crazy fast,” he told the Liberator. “But I wasn’t really scared because I had my camera running, there were many people watching, and God has always protected me in the past. I wasn’t expecting so much hostility at a local school. I remember praying quickly for wisdom.”
Haines sure needed it, as Ruff next appeared to grab his sign, compelling the teen to move backward.
“Stop harassing my children!” Ruff yelled.
That apparently set off one witness who got out of his car and got in Ruff’s face.
“You got a f***in’ problem?” the man yelled at Ruff. “He’s on public property.”
Ruff retorted, “He’s not allowed to yell at my students.”
“He can do whatever the f*** he wants,” the man told Ruff.
When Ruff told the man he’s holding up traffic, the man replied, “I don’t give a s**t.”
Ruff then threatened to call the police, and the man smirked before walking off and saying, “Another loony, wacko liberal.”
Seemingly proving the man’s point, Ruff next began singing “I Love a Parade” at top volume to drown out the Haines siblings — he even attempted some dance steps.
When Conner Haines spoke loudly to passing motorists, telling them that Christ can set them free from their sins, Ruff turned around and yelled back, “Public school, we don’t believe in that here!”
Ruff kept up his loud singing intermittently for the rest of the video.
Patricia McGlone, director of public information for the Downingtown School District, told WCAU that Ruff will remain on leave pending a formal investigation and that parents will have the opportunity to express their concerns.
“We do not condone or support the conduct expressed in the video and are deeply disappointed that this incident occurred,” the school’s statement read. “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.”
A Facebook user identifying herself as a STEM student stood up for Ruff and said the pro-life activists were blocking traffic and distracting drivers with their signs, WCAU said.
“Mr. Ruff had every right to defend his students,” the commenter said, according to the station. “What they are not showing in this video is what the posters actually depicted. There was a horrendous image of a dead baby covered in blood. This image distracted me, and I almost rear-ended the person in front of me.”
According to Ruff’s page on the school’s website, he’s in the final stages of his doctoral dissertation at Drexel University in Philadelphia “in their Educational Leadership and Management program, and hopes to complete his research this academic year. Mr. Ruff received his Principal Certification from Penn State Great Valley’s campus, a Masters degree from Neumann University and his undergraduate work was done in his home state of Vermont.”
Here’s the full video of the incident. (Content warning: Rough language):