An 18-year-old girl is not being allowed to walk at her high school graduation due to her pregnancy.
Maddi Runkles, from Boonsboro, Maryland, attends Heritage Academy, a small Christian school that suspended her for two days after she announced her pregnancy, according to The New York Times.
Runkles discovered she was pregnant in January, just a few days after she received a college acceptance letter, she told the Times.
School officials also removed Runkles from her position within the student council, along with her suspension — which was decided by the Heritage board, led at the time by her father, Scott.
Scott told the Times he quit the board in anger after seeing how his daughter was being treated.
“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.”
Maddi, who is expecting a boy, told the newspaper she plans to raise her child with the help of her parents and keeps an ultrasound image next to her bed.
She declined to discuss the father of the baby with the Times, but did say they did not plan to marry and that he was not a student at Heritage Academy.
Maddi said she knew she’d face punishment for her pregnancy “because I did break the school code” — the school has a strict policy stating “no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of the marriage commitment between a man and a woman.”
She announced her pregnancy in front of the entire school and says that while students thanked her, she still felt like she was being punished more harshly than students who were suspended for other infractions.
“I told on myself,” she said. “I asked for forgiveness. I asked for help.”
David Hobbs, the school’s administrator, issued a statement to the Times after he declined to discuss Maddi, saying she will earn her diploma, and called her pregnancy “an internal issue about which much prayer and discussion has taken place.”
Maddi has received support from Students for Life, an anti-abortion group which took her to a recent rally in Washington.
“She made the courageous decision to choose life, and she definitely should not be shamed,” Kristan Hawkins, the Students for Life president, said. “There has got to be a way to treat a young woman who becomes pregnant in a graceful and loving way.”
Maddi is attempting to move forward. She told the Times that her parents are planning a separate graduation ceremony for her on June 3.
“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.”