An Open Letter to Dr. Zach Ruff, a Downingtown Assistant Principal

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows some stuff about me. I’m a First Amendment lawyer. I’m a conservative. I’m even openly Christian.

As you’re probably also aware, this video has taken the internet by storm, straight from my hometown of Downingtown, PA:

As a result of the incident, Zach Ruff hasΒ resignedΒ from his job as an assistant principal from Downingtown, where he worked for about 14 years.

Am I happy with his resignation?

No. Not at all.

“But Jordan, you’re totally against abortion!! How can you support this guy? And he hates the First Amendment!! That guy would have put a loud mouth like you in detention for 10 years! Probably Saturday detention!”

Yeah, I get it.

But atΒ least Ruff standsΒ for something. Even something I disagree with.Β I was actually pretty sad about his resignation, and decided to write Ruff an email…


I’m a conservative Christian who went to Downingtown High. That said, your resignation deeply saddened me. I am very sorry to see you stop serving our student community over this incident.

I think the YouTube video unequivocally showed you care about your students, your beliefs, and standing for something. That’s more than just about every other educator, save a select few, can say.

I wanted to watch the video and think β€œWow, this is the type of guy I would never want to associate with. He’s just who is just a big bully!” But when I actually watched the video, all I could think is β€œthis is a man who cares deeply about his students.”

You struck me as an educator who actually gives a damn.

Sure, those kids had a right to be out there and protest. I don’t disagree. But it also came off like you were also doing what you thought was in the best interest of your students.

Faced in the same situation, most Downingtown administrators I remember would have gotten in their car, gone home for the day, and turned on the television. In fact, that is exactly what your colleagues did. But you didn’t do that. You went outside and stood for what you thought was right. Yet now you’re out of a job. And I think that sucks.

While we disagree politically, I’d rather have a school administrator display courage than apathy. You stood for something rather than nothing. That’s more than most, and it’s what inspires students to to do more than β€œwhat’s expected” of them. That’s the type of moxie that makes young people want to do great deeds.

I wish there were more administrators like you when I went to Downingtown. We’d of probably of argued until the sun went down, but I’d have also probably thought that Mr. Ruff made me think a lot.

I hope you can continue your public service and continue to expand the minds of young people.

Even those who might disagree with you.

I’d rather see educatorsΒ willing to stand for something, anything, than just sittingΒ back and being be afraid to express themselves. Anyone can sit at home and play Nintendo.

In the same vein, I am also very impressed withΒ Connor and Lauren Haines, who had the courage to express their own views on abortion.

However, I am less than thrilled with a good educator being fired over this incident. Most educators are I grew up with were apathetic. At least Ruff gives a damn about something, and enough to stand up for it. I want a guy like that teaching kids to stand for things.

While my Catholic beliefs will always remain vehemently opposed to abortion, I respect any educator who encourages his students to stand up and speak out.

Even against things I disagree with.

Ruff is the kind of educator whoΒ inspires kidsΒ likeΒ Connor and Lauren Haines to take their opinions to public sidewalks in the first place.

Good on him, and good on them.

12 Responses to An Open Letter to Dr. Zach Ruff, a Downingtown Assistant Principal

  1. Tom Sack says:

    We definitely saw both sides of Dr. Ruff in that YouTube video. The caring teacher/administrator that waves and talks to his students. Then there’s the bully that used his presence to try and scare away a 16 year old and his older sister.

    • Agree. I do not think he should have resigned, though. An apology would have sufficed in my opinion.

      However, I would take Ruff over an apathetic administrator every single day.

  2. As a teacher, I admit that one bad moment should not ruin a career. On the other hand, he was seriously out of control. At some point he needed to go out of the situation — as the safety of his students was never in question… We teach kids to get out of a situation when their presence will only escalate things.

    In other news, he thought it was necessary to shield his students from alternative views. He also though bullying other young people on the sidewalk was the way to do it.

  3. Eileen Kruper says:

    Your letter makes the point repeatedly that Ruff had the courage to stand up for his convictions. But, why not also address the fact that he verbally harassed these teens, who lawfully had every right to be there.

    Also, his convictions with regard to abortion are erroneous in that he referred to the unborn child as “a bunch of cells”, or words to that effect, denying the fact the fetus is fully formed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The only thing needed is time and nutrition for him or her to continue to grow. That’s no different than what we all need!

    Mr. Ruff is ignorant of the basic science of fetal life, which is not new. It’s been around and observable for decades by way of special photography. See the baby (fetus, if you like that better) at 12 weeks here:

    I think you should have stood up for the two courageous teens in your open letter rather than for Mr. Ruff. They were standing up for their convictions based on TRUTH, that abortion is the murder of an innocent, human being and it is happening to about 3,000 of them each day in the U.S.A. alone. May God bless them and all other Christians who stand up for their convictions and take abuse from the Zach Ruffs of the world.

  4. tonyome says:

    An Educator with 15 years experience and a Doctorate should have known better then to violate the rights of the protesters. He should have called the police if he was concerned and walked away.

  5. Retta Jordan says:

    While I understand your support of someone that is passionate about what they believe in, I think you fail to see the real problem with the actions of Mr. Ruff. At no time during the video, were his students at risk of injury, physical or mental.

    The way he handled this situation reveals a much deeper, darker issue within this administrator and those he disagrees with. A man in his position should have known better and did not show the restraint, professionalism or conduct becoming someone of his authority. Although you erroneously indicated he was fired, he did the right thing by resigning

  6. John trenter says:

    And the writer of this “endorsement” of Ruff claims to be a “conservative Christian?” Sure, right. So is the state of the church today, reflected hereby this writer. I would say that this writer ought to re-examine her very weak claims to be with those of us who love Jesus! Fakes are all over our land!

    John Trenter

  7. J. McHue says:

    Sorry, no. There’s truly standing for something and then there’s being a grade-A, dyed-in-the-wool, foul-mouthed bigot, which is what Mr. Ruff is. There is no other explanation and no excuse for his unacceptable and, quite frankly, absolutely bizarre behavior.

  8. Ken Murray says:

    Reading your defense of someone indefensible makes me wonder where you went wrong. You lionize a man who sought to intimidate, harass, threaten, demean, silence, verbally assault and insult young people. That is sick. Ruff displayed the hallmarks of a bully and an unstable persona. Acting as he did in public, one must wonder how he acts out of the public eye. How often must Ruff have similarly abused students who may have raised his ire. This was a man out of control. Vicious and near violent. Had not a camera been evident, would Ruff have gotten physical? Thankfully, we may never know. Instead of being offered the choice to resign, the school, a government entity, failed and didn’t fire him for conduct unbecoming, violations of civil rights, threats and intimidation. He could have been arrested and charged with child abuse for his overbearing and clearly maniacal behaviors. No one should have to deal with such a lunatic. Especially those who, by virtue of the age and authoritative position difference, were vulnerable to his actions. Ruff certainly needs to be followed closely in the future to make sure he doesn’t snap and hurt someone.

  9. Jack W. says:

    Even 2 years later, this remains the dumbest blog post on the internet. He didn’t “care” about his students. There isn’t a shred of evidence that these teens were doing anything to warrant concern for students. He disagreed with the demonstrators and wanted to shut them down, using his power as vice principal. .

  10. R.T. Johnson says:

    Ruff was not fired. He resigned. The resignation was voluntary and prior to an inquest into the incident. I believe he is a man of integrity who resigned because he was shocked by his own behavior which was not acceptable to him. Rather than endure a drawn out disciplinary process where he would have to try to defend the indefensible, he thought it better for himself and his school if he would resign. Now why can’t he get another job as an educator? He probably will in time. Will he become an administrator? I doubt it, and he shouldn’t seek it out. If he was so blinded by rage that he can’t remember what he said, then he is in need of serious training in debate. That is what he should have been done with the protesters, or do nothing. Profanity and name calling has no place in a debate. That is where he made the mistake, but understandable when you are in a position of authority and are used to telling a subordinate member of a group what to do expecting your instructions to be followed. He never received training in the event that he exceeded his authority, which he did, and he got so frustrated that the protesters were not immediately dispersing that he literally lost it. Am I sorry that he resigned? No. I have no dog in the fight, but offer only an opinion.

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