Last Updated: 21:01 p.m.
Ashley Ruffin, a 31-year-old resident of Royal Leaf Lane in Palm Coast, faces a felony child abuse and a misdemeanor battery charge following allegations that she held an underage boy in a lock to allow two other boys, including her son, to beat him up. The incident at first appears to be retaliation for another beating in which Ruffin’s son was allegedly the victim, in an Indian Trails Middle School corridor, at least as described by some of the witnesses involved.
Ruffin, in an emotional 15-minute video posted Friday evening, and her husband, tell a vastly different story. She says she refrained from pressing charges against the student who had attacked her son at school last week, as captured on video, because she did not want the student to have a criminal record–only for him to again attack her son at the sports complex, where she was about to pick him up, and where she says she stopped the fight. “I wish you were in my shoes. What would you do if your kid was getting beat inside of a school?” she asked in the confessional video.
According to Ruffin’s arrest report, the mother of one of the alleged victims approached a school resource deputy at Indian Trails Middle School Thursday afternoon and claimed that her son was “jumped by two other juveniles,” and that Ruffin had allegedly assaulted her son as well.
The woman claimed that Ruffin got out of her car, grabbed the reporting woman’s son’s by the hair and arm “while the other two males continued to beat him.” The incident took place at the Indian Trails Sports Complex, just south of the school.
The deputy went there to investigate. Several juveniles met him. The alleged victim told him he’d been sitting with his friends when two others–not at the scene when the deputy was investigating–approached and started a fight. The alleged victim’s friends sought to help him. Then the woman later identified as Ruffin allegedly showed up, grabbed the alleged victim, and enabled the others to hit him.
When the deputy called Ruffin’s home to speak with her, Ruffin’s husband, Miguel Aviila, answered, and “became irate and started saying he was going to see his attorney and would not speak with me until then,” according to the report. Aviila told the deputy he was calling the Sheriff’s Office to file a report.
Aviila on Friday, around midday, posted a video on his Facebook page that appears to have been taken by a student in an Indian Trails Middle School corridor. The clip is undated and has no time stamp. The nine-second clip shows an upright boy pounding a boy on the floor again and again, throwing at least seven punches with his right fist. The victim in that video isn’t fighting back, but doing what he can to protect himself.
Equally disturbing: whoever took the video obviously was standing in place, though it’s not clear what that person did when the clip ended. But several other students are seen walking nearby and turning, at a normal pace, to go down a corridor, indifferent to the violence a few feet away from them. Another student stops a couple of steps away from the scene, stands, and watches.
A school district spokesman said such incidents typically last a few seconds, and by the time school staff is alerted, those involved have dispersed. It isn’t clear when the incident took place, or if it took place during a class change. During such changes, faculty are in the corridors, supervising.
“This is what happened to my son,” Aviila wrote in a note with the video clip. “I was trying to deal with it the right way and they found out that we were pressing charges so they decided to make up some allegations when all we did was break up the fight Ashley was released with no bond or anything no probable cause now for everyone saying they’re a piece about the situation go ahead the truth will surface.” (The text appears in Aviila’s spelling.) Aviila did not respond to a message on his Facebook account.
Ruffin was in fact released on her own recognizance after her first appearance before County Judge Andrea Totten at 9 this morning. She is not under any court orders other than to appear for arraignment on Oct. 11.
The deputy’s arrest report notes that the deputy told Aviila he was seeking to hear his son’s and his wife’s side of the story, but Aviila refused. The deputy gathered several witness statements, reporting that all stated that “an adult female” grabbed the alleged victim in the Sports Complex incident and “allowed other boys to hit him, [then] pulling out a taser in a threatening manner.”
Most corridors at Indian Trails are equipped with video surveillance. A district spokesman said Friday he had become aware of the video clip, but was not yet aware of any in-school investigation of the matter or disciplinary follow-ups, and was looking into it.
The district’s spokesman later clarified: “ Pierre: The incident in the video clip was investigated by ITMS administration. The case was handled through our student disciplinary process. My understanding was that the incident occurred last week.”
While the two incidents may be connected in the retaliatory sense, they are entirely separate in the law enforcement and judicial sense: an individual who retaliates violently as a result of a prior violent incident is neither justified nor immune from charges in the eyes of the law. Unlike a confrontation in the moment that entails self-defense or a stand-your-ground defense, retaliation after the fact is, if anything, more of an aggravating factor that suggests pre-meditation.
“There is zero excuse for an adult, especially a parent, to be physically involved in a juvenile dispute,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Kids need to have leadership from their parents and taught how to handle disputes properly. I doubt she will receive a mother of the year award.”
The Sheriff’s Office has filed misdemeanor battery charges involving other juveniles.
Referring to the clip from the school corridor, a sheriff’s spokesperson said, “As far as I know it is being looked into but that fight was separate from what the mother was involved in, I just want to make that clear.”
“We did not know about that fight until about an hour ago when it was posted,” the Sheriff’s spokesperson said around 4 p.m. Friday, of the fight caught in the video clip. Initially, the spokesperson said, the school chose to handle that internally. The parents were told that if they wanted to file charges, they could do so–and they chose not to do that, the spokesperson said. But the school resource officer is now contacting Aviila and Ruffin to see if they want to move forward with an investigation on that case.
Audio: Ashley Ruffin’s Side of the Story
In the confessional video on her Facebook page, Ruffin spoke between sobs and tears, and disbelief that she is at the center of what has turned into a media storm. “I’m in so much pain because I would never hurt a child and I had to spend a night in jail undeservedly, away from my new baby,” she said. She decided to speak publicly “to clear things up.” She spoke of her 12-year-old son by name, describing him as successful and raised to be kind, but to defend himself if attacked. She said an issue arose with another student on the basketball court last week in PE class. He was called names, laughed it off, kept getting taunted, and when the two moved into the hallway, her son took off his backpack and the fight recorded on that nine-second video was captured. Ruffin said school authorities told her the fight was brief, mutual, and both students were suspended. But when she saw the video, she saw it differently.
“In our rage at that moment we said we’re pressing charges, and then once we calmed down and rationalized thinking, we both agreed, this kid is young, if we have a sit down with his parents, we can solve this together,” she said. But the school did not cooperate to set up such a conference, she said. The Labor Day weekend prevented her from contacting anyone. Her son stayed home Tuesday. Wednesday she was picking him up at the sports complex, where she’s always picked him up after school, as many parents do.
When she turned up, she saw her son “engaged” with the same boy, and more than a dozen other students on the other boy’s side. “All I could say is Miguel hurry up and park the car,” she said, referring to her husband. “I got out, I grabbed him by his backpack to pull him off and everybody just thinks that I’m some superwoman, like, these kids are big, the kid’s taller than me, I’m only 5’3”, and I’m pulling him off, Miguel is trying to clear the crowd because all the kids are going ‘fight’–you know middle schoolers. My son backs off, I said get off of him, don’t touch him, like get the f– out of here. I probably cursed, absolutely. I was angry.” She and her husband took her son and four other students home. She said she didn’t instigate anything or enable a fight–she stopped the fight, and would do it again to protect her child or any child she loves. “I wish you were in my shoes. What would you do if your kid was getting beat inside of a school?” she asked, in tears, asking where was the school’s anti-bullying policy, and repeated the sheriff’s “mother of the year” quip in disbelief.
She said she could have easily pressed charges against the child who assailed hers, but she has a child of her own and did not want to ruin another child’s life with a record. “And you people have the audacity to call me names,” she said, before describing having a breakdown in the backseat of the patrol car after her arrest, and what she described as a harrowing experience.
In 2018, Anthony Gardiner, 34 at the time, faced battery and disorderly conduct charges after videos caught him either involved in or encouraging a fight between his son and another boy, and standing by as the two boys fought. In a plea deal, Gardiner pleaded no contest to the disorderly conduct charge. The battery charge was dropped. He was sentenced to six months’ probation.