The pregnant high school senior who captured the nation’s attention when she spoke out about her Christian school’s decision not to allow her to walk at graduation has received her diploma, though not under the circumstances she had hoped.
Despite Maddi Runkles’ efforts to bring national attention to her plight, school officials at Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland, refused to back down from her commencement ban — a decision made after she broke the school’s purity pledge.
Runkles was reportedly granted her diploma, instead, during an alternative ceremony at Benevola United Methodist Church in Boonsboro, Maryland, on Saturday, where 140 friends and family turned up to offer their support, WRC-TV reported.
The outlet reported that Runkles got a standing ovation and wore a white cap and gown, though she didn’t give a speech. She was the only student who was granted a diploma during the event.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, a pro-life group, had come to Runkles’ defense over the past month to try and convince Heritage Academy to change its mind and to let the senior walk, but to no avail.
Hawkins spoke at Saturday’s graduation ceremony and gave Runkles a $16,000 scholarship as well as thousands of encouraging messages from people across the globe, the Christian Post reported.
“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.
While Runkles said the day wasn’t exactly what she and her family had imagined it would be, she was grateful.
“It was a very special day,” she said of Saturday’s festivities.
As Faithwire previously reported, Runkles’ plight became national news after the New York Times ran a story about her school’s decision. Meanwhile, Students for Life has been arguing that Runkles should be lauded, not punished for her decision to keep her baby. Runkles, too, has spoken out vocally against her punishment.
“Some pro-life people are against the killing of unborn babies, but they won’t speak out in support of the girl who chooses to keep her baby,” she told the Times. “Honestly, that makes me feel like maybe the abortion would have been better. Then they would have just forgiven me, rather than deal with this visible consequence.”
But Heritage Academy school administrator David R. Hobbs made it clear that he wouldn’t be changing his mind on the matter. In addition to not walking at graduation, Runkles was removed from her role as student council president and briefly suspended.
“Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral,” Hobbs wrote, citing a pledge signed by all Heritage students that is based on Philippians 4:8, precluding them from sexual immorality, alcohol, tobacco and drugs.