Christian High School Bans Pregnant Teen From Walking at Graduation

Graduation representsan important rite of passage for youth across the United States, and many are looking forward to picking up their diplomas in the coming weeks. But one teen, Maddi Runkles, won’thave that privilege — this honor roll student isn’t allowed to walk with her classmates, because she’s pregnant.

Officials at Runkles’private school in Maryland claim thather pregnancy violates the honor code by breakinga “no sex before marriage” rule.

Runklesfound out she waspregnant in January, shortly beforereceivingcollege acceptance letters.She weighed the optionsavailable to her and decided to move forward with thepregnancy.

But if Runklesexpected support from her conservative Christian school, she didn’t get it — even after speaking to the student body, an actthat must have taken considerable bravery.

Instead, Runkleswas stripped of her positions in student government and informed that while she would graduate with her class, she wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the ceremony.

Runklesfeels that her punishment is unjust, noticing that students who break the law with underage drinking are treated with minimal discipline. Similarly,other students who commit honor code violations are usually given a single punishment at the time of the offense before being allowed to move on.

Instead, this entire semester has includeda series of punishments that aim to cut her out of student life and isolateher from her peers.

Students for Life, a conservative anti-choice group, has ridden to Runkles’defense, arguing that the school doesn’t formally lay out honor code punishments in the student handbook.

Runkles herself expresses frustration and regret, telling theNew York Timesthat it might have been easier to have an abortion and seek forgiveness than to endure the school’s prolonged punishment.

School administrator David Hobbs wrote a lengthy open letter on the school’s website, filled with shaming language about “immorality” and suggesting that harsh discipline is a sign of love.

Runkles,a devout Christian who was raised to oppose abortion, commented toBuzzfeed News that she was disturbed by “how Christians treat people when they make a mistake.”

It’s notable that teen pregnancy overall is on the decline in the United States. The CDC believesincreased access to contraceptives for sexually active youth may play a role in these trends, though the agencyalso suggests that larger numbers of teens may be choosing abstinence.

In Maryland, the state mandatesabstinence-only education, a form of sexual education that demonstrably fails –research shows little difference in sexual activityand suggests that STI rates may be higher in abstinence-only states.

This case clearly highlights serious tensions in the evangelical community. Runkles may have committed an honor code violation, but by choosing to keep the pregnancy despite subsequent hardship, she’s also embodying religiousvalues.

Even as the school punishes Runkles, officials arealso suppressingwhat would in other circumstances be pitched as a virtuous decision. The lack of support for this pregnant youth is a sad reflectionon the school, especially considering her family’s warm support for her choice.

Show Maddi your support by signing this Care2 petition and urging Heritage Academy to reverse its decision.

Photo Credit: COD Newsroom/Flickr

97 comments

Telica R
Telica R29 days ago

Thanks

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Marie W
Marie Wabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Amanda M
Amanda M4 months ago

I live in the same county in Maryland as Maddi, and I was disappointed at the "Christian love" that her private Christian school showed her. Worse, when the principal was asked if a boy who'd fathered a child out of wedlock would face the same punishment, he said that such matters are handled on a case-by-case basis. Translation: Probably not, because it's always the WOMAN who "deserves" the harsher punishment since she's the one who gets "caught." A boy would probably get a knuckle-smack and a "go forth and sin no more." (Yet another reason I'm not a Christian-the double standards against women make me SICK!) Needless to say, the fallout from the public at large was harsh, and mostly directed at the SCHOOL! Don't even get me started on the abstinence-based sex ed in our county-all I have to say is that they need to switch to comprehensive sex ed, because our county already has the FOURTH-HIGHEST teen pregnancy rate in the entire STATE, and the sex ed programs and largely "red" nature of the county are two big reasons why! And unfortunately, the school still didn't let Maddi graduate with her class, but her family arranged a private ceremony a day later. Still not the same as graduating with her class, though.

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Williams K
Williams K4 months ago

I AM MRS KATTY WILLIAMS. A WIDOW TO LATE JOHN WILLIAMS. I AM 70 YEARS OLD, I AM NOW A NEW CHRISTIAN CONVERT, SUFFERING FROM LONG TIME CANCER OF THE BREAST, FROM ALL INDICATION MY CONDITIONS IS REALLY DETERIORATING AND IT IS QUITE OBVIOUS THAT I WONT LIVE MORE THAN SIX MONTHS, ACCORDING TO MY DOCTORS, THIS IS BECAUSE THE CANER STAGE HAS GOTTEN TO A VERY BAD STAGE..
MY LATE HUSBAND KILLED DURING THE U.S. RAID AGAINST TERRORISM AFGHANISTAN,AND DURING THE PERIOD OF OUR MARRIAGE WE COULDN'T PRODUCE ANY CHILD.. MY LATE HUSBAND WAS VERY WEALTHY AND AFTER HIS DEATH, I INHERITED ALL HIS BUSINESS AND WEALTH.
THE DOCTORS HAS ADVISED ME THAT I MAY NOT LIVE FOR MORE THAN SIX MONTHS,BUT I HAVE COME TO FIND OUT THAT LIFE WITHOUT CHRIST IS VANITY.
MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS THE LOVE OF GOD AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF GOD BE WITH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY,PLEASE ALWAYS PUT ME IN YOUR PRAYER.
If anyone truly has a word from the Lord on this with regard to my CANCER PROBLEM and my future MY HOPE, please do not hesitate to reach out privately. My email address is katty22222i@gmail.com Or kattty22222i@gmail.com. I have been praying for this for many many months, if not at least a couple years in a certain way.

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iloshechka A
iloshechka A5 months ago

thanks

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Angela K
Angela K6 months ago

noted

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H6 months ago

"commented to Buzzfeed News that she was disturbed by “how Christians treat people when they make a mistake.”" Welcome to the real "christian" world. Total hypocrites. I didn't see where it said who the boy was! A possible graduate? I am sure if it is, he is probably getting a pat on the back and honors on the walk instead.

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Twila H
Twila H6 months ago

There may come a day when the folks that have made this decision will have a few stones thrown at them as I'm betting they don't live in perfect glass houses without any sins of their own. May she and her unborn baby have a very wonderful and bright future surrounded by those who will truly love and support them!

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Michelle Spradley
Michelle S6 months ago

She made a mistake which she will one day have to explain to her child, that will be punishment enough, along with the fact that if she is going to keep the baby she will have to forgo the college education she dreamed she would have. Personally, I don't think there is anything better designed to cover up a pregnancy than a graduation gown. If the school insists on not allowing her to participate in any graduation activities and the father of the baby is also a student, then he should also be banned from participating in all graduation activities and she should not hesitate to tell on him because he also broke the no sex before marriage rule.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE6 months ago

I dont think she should flaunt her pregnancy at any school, let alone at her school. I wonder if the babys father, if still at school, was also ostrasised.

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