A high school senior at Heritage Academy has stood out in the classroom for the last four years.
But now, the spotlight is on her for a different reason.
Maddi Runkles, 18, has a 4.0 grade point average, was president of Student Council and an officer in the prestigious Key Club. Despite all of that, she won’t be walking at her graduation on June 2.
She got pregnant last year, a violation of the school’s code against premarital sex. The school’s Board of Directors decided she could finish her classes, but not walk with her classmates.
“To have a girl who is seven months pregnant walking at graduation would be easily misunderstood, bringing even more pressure onto Maddi,” said Dave Hobbs, principal of Heritage Academy.
Hobbs said this was done with Maddi’s best interests at heart, even though her family has opposed it.
“I am glad that she has decided to keep the baby and not abort the baby,” Hobbs added. “Yet, she’s not being disciplined because she decided to keep the baby.”
To go to school at Heritage Academy, you have to sign a student pledge to avoid things like alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. However, when you sign that dotted line, you’re also taking a vow of abstinence.
“When Maddi chose to breach that Bible standard, a discipline plan had to be established,” Hobbs said.
But the “Students for Life of America” anti-abortion group said she already received a two-day suspension, and that kicking her out of graduation took things too far.
“The school has shown students that it would be easier to choose abortion than to choose life,” said Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America. “Because she chose to carry her child and courageously made that decision, she’s been punished this entire semester for being pregnant, and that’s just wrong.”
Maddi’s parents have planned an alternative graduation ceremony for their daughter next weekend. She is due to deliver her child in September, and is planning to start her college career by taking online classes through Liberty University.