PHILADELPHIA (CBS)–The Downingtown-Area School District is one that is torn in two following a largely beloved staff member placed on administrative leave due to a video that captured what some feel was a clear violation of the First Amendment.
“I don’t give a **** what you think Jesus tells me,” Dr. Zach Ruff is heard saying in a cellphone footage recorded on April 21.READ MORE: Delaware County Investigators Zeroing In On Person Of Interest In 32-Year-Old Cold Case Murder Of Tyra Waiters
The controversial confrontation took place between Ruff and two teen anti-abortion activists protesting on a public sidewalk outside of the STEM Academy in Downingtown . The teens are not students at the school.
“These children are being murdered in our society,” said one protester to Ruff, who appears to be ordering the teens to leave.
Ruff responded with, “They’re not children, they are cells!”
Ruff is the Dean of Students at the school and has since been placed on paid administrative leave while the matter is investigated.
In the footage he yells, “I wish to protect my students from unsightly things that they don’t need to see!”READ MORE: Philadelphia's Mayor, Police Commissioner Host Town Hall To Address Rise In Anti-Asian Hate Crimes
As part of a lengthy statement on the matter, Dr. Lawrence Mussoline, Downingtown-Area School District Superintendent said: “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.”
“His language was a little… I can see why people would be upset and First Amendment rights are everything totally for it especially in today’s time,” said former STEM Academy student, Matthew Ronca.
As we worked on this story, former students who were close to Ruff flocked to where we were to explain the man they know.
“You would go in there for the end of year exams to be dancing and singing a jingle just to cheer us up, that video just portrayed a side that was not Dr. Ruff,” said another former student, John West.
As of 11 p.m. Monday, a petition to reinstate Ruff had earned the support of over 31,000 people. Ronca was one of many who adamantly shared the online petition.
“I can say in my heart that that man is the reason why I am still here today. He talked me out of a lot of dark times,” added Ronca.MORE NEWS: Police Searching For Suspect Accused Of Assaulting Bala Cynwyd 7-Eleven Worker