An 18-year-old student has been removed from her student council position because she is pregnant and her Christian school in Maryland says she will also be barred from walking in graduation with her classmates next month. A pro-life group, which is fighting for her, says the school must not punish her for deciding to keep the baby.
High school senior Maddi Runkles at Heritage Academy, a nondenominational independent school in Hagerstown, "made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed," Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life president, told The New York Times.
"There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way."
Runkles is an athlete, was president of the Student Council and an officer in the Key Club at Heritage Academy.
"She's making the right choice. But you don't want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, 'Well, that seems like a pretty good option,'" Rick Kempton, chairman of the board of the Association of Christian Schools International, was quoted as saying.
Runkles comes from a Christian family and attends a strong Christian church where she has felt nothing but love and support since finding out she was pregnant, according to the pro-life group Students for Life, which says the disciplinary action on Runkles' "mistake" was "unnecessarily cruel and set a bad example of what it means to be a pro-life Christian."
Runkles had signed a code of conduct, which said she would try to avoid premarital sex, drugs and alcohol, and the school takes action on those who break the code on a case-by-case basis. The school principal had decided to inform the entire school that Runkles had broken the rules but she voluntarily told the school that she was pregnant.
"I stood there in tears while my dad read half of my prepared statement until I could compose myself and read the rest on my own, admitting my mistake but also saying that I chose life for my child," Runkles was quoted as saying. "It was embarrassing but I wanted my peers and my friends to hear it from me. The public confession was hard enough but unfortunately I knew there would be more consequences that I would have to face."
"This reflects the divergence of opinions that can occur at a Christian school when it comes to pregnant teens," Scott Runkles, the student's father and former school board president who resigned because of how the school treated his daughter, stated. "However, in situations where you have a genuinely repentant student like Maddi, grace and love should always have prominence over discipline."
Students for Life asks, "Who are the examples of what it means to be a Christian and be pro-life? Where are the examples of pro-life Christian schools that fully embrace these teens after they make pro-life decisions?"