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By Grace Carr
Two pro-life students have won a free speech battle against a man who harassed them and attempted to halt their protesting by intimidation, media outlets reported Thursday.
The teens, Connor and Lauren Haines, were protesting on a public sidewalk outside their school when Zach Ruff, the Vice Principal of Academics and Student Life at the Downingtown STEM Academy, came up to them and berated them with foul language and vulgar slurs. The conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced the victory in a Thursday statement, detailing the settlement between the Pennsylvania school district and the teens.
“No government employee — especially someone with authority over students — should harass or threaten anyone for exercising their First Amendment protected freedoms in public,” ADF senior counsel Kevin Theriot said, according to The Blaze.
The students reported the assault and both they and the ADF condemned the affront, but it wasn’t until Thursday that the district released its July 7 letter which acknowledged that he had violated the protesters’ 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,” the school district superintendent said. “Rest assured that Dr. Ruff’s actions do not represent the policy of the School District.”
The district said it will train employees to not violate free speech rights going forward.
The school put Ruff on paid administrative leave, and he has since resigned from his teaching post. The teens did not file a lawsuit against the district and that neither of the students attended the school outside of which they were protesting.