Maddi Runkles, 18, has been barred from graduating at her high school because she is pregnant out of wedlock. While the young woman feels that a penalty is appropriate, she is bothered and hurt by the school's "hypocrisy" regarding the decision to keep her child, despite the difficulty of her choice due to her age and situation. While she has ample support from her family, her school, which claims to be pro-life, responded in a much less encouraging way. Other students, she explains, have broken the rules with equal transgression, and yet did not receive an on-par punishment:
“We sign a student code at the beginning of each school year that we’ll refrain from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and pre-marital sex, stuff like that. And other kids at my school have been caught drunk, defacing public property, and other things like that, but they’ve never suffered a punishment as severe as mine.”
Moreover, while Runkles was initially told that she would have to finish classes at home, she is now told that she can finish them at the school---but would still have to accept the deprivation of a school ceremony.
“It was very stressful because I knew immediately that there were going to be issues at school," Runkles explained the apprehension at her pregnancy news, "I’ve grown up in church and Christian school my whole life, so I knew that getting pregnant at 18 wasn’t going to be looked upon very highly.”
While Heritage Academy principal David Hobbs communicated that he would publicize the student's situation to the entire school, Maddi decided that she would tell her own story, herself.
"I decided I wanted to confess what I did and ask for forgiveness from my school, but the other kids who had broken other rules – even when they were caught – they still lied about what they had done. It just seems unfair. I tried to make it right, but was still shot down.”
Maddi felt wrongly represented, despite her honesty, and abandoned by the principles the school faculty had professed. She admitted to considering abortion for a time, as a result of her fear.
"I did think about abortion for awhile because I was so afraid of what I was going to face, because I was just afraid of what everyone was going to think of me and the family that I come from. It was just going to hurt my reputation and everything. It was hard to choose life, it wasn’t an easy decision, but I know it was the right decision.”
The Heritage Academy pupil explains the reason behind the fervency of her plea:
“My main mission through all this is that Christians claim to be pro-life, but when a girl chooses to keep her baby they still don’t want anything to do with it. It kind of defeats the whole purpose of being pro-life, and says to girls, ‘Maybe you should have gotten the abortion because we could forgive you for that.’"
Association of Christian Schools International chairman of the board Rick Kempton presents another dimension to the case, however. While he agrees that Runkles made the right decision for the life of her child, he disapproves of potentially making the unwed girl's situation an attractive example to fellow students:
"...You don't want to create a celebration that makes other young ladies feel like, 'Well, that seems like a pretty good option.'"