Photos courtesy of Students for Life of America
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - A Maryland high school student who wasn't allowed to walk at her private Christian school's graduation ceremony because she was pregnant had a graduation of her own over the weekend. Maddi Runkles, 18, walked across the stage and received her diploma on Saturday in a private ceremony put on by her church and attended by about 100 of her friends, family and supporters.
Runkles, who had a 4.0 GPA, was not allowed to walk with 14 other graduating seniors in her class because her school, The Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Md., said she violated the school's code of conduct by having premarital sex.
Heritage Academy is a K-12 non-denominational conservative Christian school. At the beginning of every school year, the high school students and their parents each sign a pledge.
Runkles and her parents told FOX 5 they were struggling to understand how their conservative Christian high school can teach and promote being pro-life, but then turn their backs on one of their own.
"I signed it, which is like a typical thing every school year,” Runkles told FOX 5 in an interview last month.
The pledge reads in part:
“This application extends to my actions, such as protecting my body by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol tobacco, and illegal drugs…"
Runkles’s father told FOX 5 in May he believes the pledge could be interpreted differently, explaining that other students have had infractions and have been allowed to walk in past years, and are allowed to walk again this year. Scott Runkles was president of the school’s board which tackles issues such as discipline. He resigned from the board once his daughter made the decision to inform the school she was pregnant.
FOX 5 also spoke to the school's principal, Dave Hobbs, who believes Heritage Academy made an exception by allowing Maddi to continue attending classes.
“I believe that every situation should be evaluated individually,” Hobbs said. “When it comes to a precedent, I don't believe that a precedent always guide decisions that are made in the future.”
Runkles said she chose to tell school officials she was pregnant in an effort to not deceive her teachers and peers. but she was was forced to step down from all her leadership positions at school and was kept home for two days during an unofficial suspension. She said she accepted her discipline, but she feels shamed because she was not allowed to walk.
"You can't be pro-life, but then refuse to support the girl that keeps her baby,” she told FOX 5 last month.
At Saturday's ceremony, Students for Life of America presented Runkles with a $16,000 college scholarship and many messages of support from around the world.