May 25, 2017
Maryland Christian School Principal Defends Decision To Ban Pregnant Teen From Graduation

When Maddi Runkles became aware that she was pregnant, the 18-year-old senior of Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland, who was president of student council and maintains a 4.0 grade point average, according to the Herald Mail, went to her parents and told them the truth about her situation. Her father, who was on the board of directors at the time, told the board of the Christian school that Maddi was pregnant in January. The principal of the school, Dave Hobbs, together with the board of directors, came to the conclusion on February 20 that Maddi would not be allowed to participate in the school's graduation ceremony because she had broken a contract she made not to have premarital sex. It was not to punish Maddi, Hobbs said, but was instead to uphold the "rules of the institution."

"When there's a disciplinary situation, it's that family's personal business. It's not everybody's news. So very much, we wanted to protect Maddi's confidentiality. This is why I declined comment to the Times."
Pregnant Woman by Alena Root c
[Image by Alena Root/Getty Images]

Maddi and her family took the situation to the New York Times after unsuccessfully appealing the board's decision that she not be allowed the participate in commencement with the other 14 graduating seniors. The family argued that the school was pro-life, and that by punishing Maddi, that they were encouraging pregnant girls to get abortions and may even drive some to suicide in order to avoid the judgment that Maddi and her family feels she has received.

However, some of the public has not been supportive of Hobbs' decision, and two police cruisers were spotted in front of the school on Tuesday as students played outside. Hobbs said that he expects that type of backlash when in a position of being the principal.

"Some of them are calling me names, but when somebody is in a leadership position like I am in, it's going to happen. The other issue that we're having is we're getting a lot of encouragement. We've gotten lots of emails, thanking us for taking a stand in regards to what is right and what is wrong."
The father of Maddi Runkles' baby reportedly does not attend Heritage Academy, which is a private non-denominational Christian school with a code of conduct that students must follow, such as abstinence from sexual activity and illegal drugs. Hobbs said that is the reason that Runkles will not be able to "walk" in the graduation ceremony.
"Certainly, we are a pro-life institution, and certainly we are pleased that Maddi has chosen to keep her baby. Her choice broke that standard of abstinence. It is a clear standard in the Bible. It is a clear standard in our handbook."
Hobbs also stated that they were showing love to Maddi Runkles by discipling her, as is outlined in the book of Romans.
"It says overcome with good. And that's exactly what I want to do. I know that when a child commits wrong, the best way to love that child is to discipline the child. The best way to do the wrong thing for the child, is to not discipline the child. We love Maddi Runkles."
[Image bt Ian Waldie/Getty Images]

When the school learned that Maddi was pregnant, they suspended her for several days. She will still receive her diploma, although she is not allowed to participate in graduation activities. At that point, her father resigned from the school board, and said that he agrees that she needed to be disciplined, but that not allowing her to participate in graduation activities was too harsh. Scott Runkles praised his daughter.

"Maddi is a great kid. She just happened to have a lapse of judgment."
Maddi Runkles said she considered abortion at one point because she feared the stigma of being an unwed mother, but her desire to give her baby life overrode that fear. She said that she fears the school is not sending a clear message that it is pro-life with the decision to punish her by keeping her from graduation.
"You can't be pro-life, then choose to throw away the girl who does choose life for her baby."
[Featured Image by visivastudio/ShutterStock]