The 'Principal Situation'

PHS Bra Photo
Aura Hill

Palmyra High School Principal Benjamin Ruby has been given unpaid administrative leave in the wake of the “bra photo” incident at the school.

The “Principal Situation” was the lone item on the Staffing and Administration Committee agenda overshadowed all items on Palmyra Area School District’s Curriculum Committee agenda March 27.

The situation? On Feb. 21, Palmyra High School Principal, Dr. Benjamin Ruby took a photo of a Victoria’s Secret bag containing a bra that had been dropped off at the school office for a student and that subsequently he emailed the photo to the high school staff, purportedly as a joke.

At the committee meeting, Superintendent Lisa Brown reviewed the investigation the district launched after being alerted by a parent who had received an anonymous letter regarding the situation. 

“The investigation occurred between March 13 and March 25,” Brown said in a prepared statement.  “The investigation included interviews with Dr. Ruby, the recipient of the anonymous letter and other school personnel. Surveillance video was reviewed. Additionally a review of email correspondence and internet usage was conducted. Dr. Ruby fully cooperated in the investigation from the onset.”

Brown then outlined the facts.

“A parent dropped off a Victoria’s Secret bag containing a bra.

“Upon returning to the mail office, Dr. Ruby photographed the Victoria’s Secret bag containing the bra while it was in the office waiting to be picked up.

“At no time did Dr. Ruby touch the contents of the bag.

“Dr. Ruby did email the picture to the high school staff.

“Dr. Ruby did not know to whom the bag belonged nor did his email identify the owner of the bag.

“Dr. Ruby’s email contained the subject line,’If you need a laugh…’ and the body of the email stated, ‘A parent just dropped this off in the office, as is, for her daughter to pick up.’ The email contained the picture as an attachment.”

Based on the results of the investigation the administration determined that this was “an isolated case of poor judgement on the part of Dr. Ruby.”

“The district will take all appropriate disciplinary action including an unpaid administrative leave following Dr. Ruby’s approved medical leave,” Brown concluded.

Ruby is presently on medical that had been requested in mid January.

Brown also presented letter of apology from Dr. Ruby in which he took full responsibility for exercising poor judgement and for negative publicity his decision had caused others and the district as a whole. He stated that his intent was neither malicious nor ill-willed.

His statement of apology added, “Those who know me know that I care deeply for the students and staff at PHS as well as the Palmyra community at large, and would never intentionally do anything to embarrass others or bring negative attention to our school.

“I always tell students to take responsibility for their actions and I want to demonstrate that I am willing to do the same. Accordingly, I accept my consequences and feel they are fair and appropriate. I have learned from this mistake, and this learning will guide me to be a stronger, wiser principal to serve the Palmyra community upon my return.”

Although nearly a dozen people attended the meeting, only two spoke following the superintendent’s prepared remarks.

Isolated Incident?

Peter Gurt, a Palmyra parent, began his comments by thanking the board for serving, especially during difficult situations.

“We now have the facts,” Gurt said. “Now we have to trust the administration’s judgement and stick to the judgement that this was an isolated incident of poor judgement.”

He added that this incident and Ruby’s public apology shows how someone can learn from his mistakes and be reintegrated into his position after an appropriate time. He noted that Ruby had raised expectations of students and staff during his nearly two years as principal.

He praised the administration for deciding to “block out all the noise,” referring to the flurry of social media comments that the incident had prompted.    

Stephanie Fawber, mother of the student, did not share Gurt’s feeling.

“When a person is in a high position like that, of course he made an apology,” Fawber said. “I have a little girl who is angry and thinks the apology was forced.” 

She referred to the incident as an example of bullying and, given the school’s zero tolerance for bullying among students, called Ruby a hypocrite.

After the meeting Fawber said that when the incident first occurred she went to the police. 

“The District Attorney shot it down,” she said, and added that she did not feel the unpaid  administrative leave was enough and that she wanted to pursue the issue. 

“She’s a minor; it’s harrassment, it’s bullying. I want him charged with something,” she said.

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