Maddi Runkles, an 18-year-old honor student whose Christian school barred her from “walking” with her graduation class after she became pregnant, celebrated her graduation in a private ceremony attended by more than 100 family, friends, and supporters.
Runkles, who attended Heritage Academy, a Christian school in Hagerstown, Maryland, was barred from the school’s official graduation ceremony because the school board is “holding her accountable for her immorality,” stated David Hobbs, the school’s principal.
“Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral,” Hobbs said in a statement posted on the school’s website, explaining that students at the school sign a scripturally based pledge that states they will protect their bodies “by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.”
In an interview with Breitbart News, Runkles said that while other students at Heritage Academy have broken some of the other rules of the pledge, “They’ve never suffered a punishment as severe as mine.”
Hobbs, she said, initially decided he would tell the entire school that she had broken the rule about pre-marital sex. She was also stripped of her leadership positions and informed she would not be permitted to complete her senior year at school but would finish her classes at home.
Runkles said she decided, however, that she wanted to publicly confess to the school herself about her pregnancy. She made her confession with her father at her side.
“I decided I wanted to confess what I did and ask for forgiveness from my school,” she continued, “but the other kids who had broken other rules – even when they were caught – they still lied about what they had done. It just seems unfair. I tried to make it right but was still shot down.”
Subsequently, Runkles’ parents and about 25 classmates and other parents appealed to Hobbs, asking that she be permitted to remain in school and graduate with her classmates. Ultimately – after several days of suspension – she was told she could return to school to complete her classes but they would still prohibit her from graduating with her class.
Runkles has been supported by Students for Life of America (SFLA), a national youth pro-life organization that asserts she was unfairly punished, since she already admitted her mistake, confessed it before the school, and relinquished her leadership roles. SFLA says Christians who claim to be pro-life should offer support to a teen who admits her error and accepts the consequences of going through with her pregnancy instead of having an abortion.
SFLA President Kristan Hawkins attended Runkles’ private graduation ceremony and presented the teen with a $16,000 college scholarship and nearly 7,000 messages of support from people in more than a dozen countries.
“We are so proud of Maddi for not only her courage to make a good decision in difficult circumstances, but to be an example to other students in similar situations and challenge Christian schools on their policies towards pregnant students like herself,” Hawkins said. “I have no doubt that hearts and minds will be changed because of Maddi’s courage and willingness to share her story.”