A conservative legal group declared victory Thursday in its fight with a Pennsylvania school district over a vice principal who yelled at two anti-abortion teens demonstrating outside his school.
The Alliance Defending Freedom accused Zach Ruff of Academics and Student Life at Downingtown STEM Academy of harassing Conner Haines, 16, and Lauren Haines, 19, while they held signs and protested on a public sidewalk last April 21.
He shouted "go to hell," and loudly sang – including the Mario Brothers theme song – over their talking with passersby. The teens do not attend the school.
The whole confrontation was videotaped and posted to YouTube.
In a May 3 letter, the group claimed Ruff assaulted the pair by trying to take a sign. And though no lawsuit was ever filed, Law Newz reported, the group posted a letter from the district acknowledging Ruff violated the teens' rights.
"You had every right under our constitution's First Amendment to speak and display signs like you did, and that right was violated by Dr. Ruff," wrote Superintendent of Schools Emilie Lonardi.
"Rest assured that Dr. Ruff's actions do not represent the policy of the School District."
The district also vowed to train employees about violations of free speech rights on public sidewalks outside of schools.
Ruff was placed on administrative leave and has since resigned from the school, Law Newz reported.
"The settlement is a bit pallid because the cover letter only pledges the district not to 'violate anyone's free speech rights on public sidewalks outside our schools,'" George Washington University law professor Catherine Ross told Law Newz, adding students at the school would also have "a right to express their views on abortion on the school campus as well, so long as they did not materially disrupt educational activities."
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