Despite a 4.0 GPA and near-perfect disciplinary record, Maryland high school senior Maddi Runkles will not be joining her peers on a graduation stage next month – all because she is pregnant.
While the decision for the school would have normally remained private, Runkles’ parents sought help from pro-life group Students for Life, which argues that the teen should be lauded, rather than punished, for deciding to keep her baby, The New York Times reported.
Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins tried unsuccessfully to sway Heritage Academy administrator David Hobbs to reverse the decision.
“She made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed,” she said. “There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way.”
Here’s Maddi giving a speech against abortion, and why she’s keeping her “little guy.” Watch:
Heritage Academy is a nondenominational independent private school in Hagerstown, were students take daily Bible classes. Hobbs said Hawkins would earn a diploma and called her pregnancy “an internal issue about which much prayer and discussion has taken place.”
Christian schools often advocate abstinence until marriage, and Runkles’ story is shedding light on a difficult situation to navigate.
“On the one hand, the school is seeking to maintain some kind of commitment to what has classically been called chastity — or today might be called abstinence,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who directs the National Marriage Project, which conducts research on marriage and families. “At the same time, there’s an expectation in many Christian circles that we are doing all that we can to honor life.”
Rick Kempton, chairman of the board of the Association of Christian Schools International, said that while Runkles is making the right choice, “you don’t want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, ‘Well, that seems like a pretty good option.’”
Some schools may insist that a pregnant student finish the school year at home, Kempton said.
Runkles’ father, Scott Runkles, was leading the school board at the time her fate was decided. He recused himself from any decisions involving his daughter and ultimately quit the board.
“Typically, when somebody breaks a rule, you punish them at the time they break the rule. That way, the punishment is behind them and they’re moving forward with a clean slate,” he said. “With Maddi, her punishment was set four months out. It’s ruined her senior year.”
About 80 percent of young evangelicals have engaged in sex, the National Association of Evangelicals, drawing on figures from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, reported in 2009.
Slightly more than half of woman who have abortions identify as Christians, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that tracks abortion policy.
Runkles considers herself a “a practicing born-again Christian.” She expects to raise her baby boy with the help of her parents and calls the child “a blessing.”
She learned of her pregnancy just days before receiving an acceptance letter to Bob Jones University, a Christian liberal arts college in Greenville, South Carolina, where she had hoped to attend.
The nine-point “statement of faith” for Heritage Academy, which has fewer than 200 students, declares that “no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of the marriage commitment between a man and a woman.”
Runkles concedes her actions broke a school code, and knew that would result consequences.
“I told on myself,” she said. “I asked for forgiveness. I asked for help.”
“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 said. “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.”
(H/T: The New York Times)
Other Must-Read Stories: