Maddi Runkles thought that she was doing the right thing when she revealed her pregnancy to school officials at Heritage Academy, the private conservative Christian high school which she attends.
The 18-year-old student did not want to deceive her teachers and classmates, and so she gathered her courage and spoke up. However, instead of acting compassionately, the school has chosen to shame Runkles by banning her from her high school graduation for engaging in premarital sex.
"It's such a small school, and it's such a big deal, and I'm the only one who's not going to be there," Runkles told reporters.
While Principal David Hobbs insists that the school's decision is not intended to make an example of Runkles, when the graduating senior class is only 15 students it's hard to see how it won't.
The school allowed Runkles to continue classes after a battle with her parents, but they suspended her for two days and removed her from her position as student council president, a hard blow for the 4.0 student.
The baby's father does not attend Heritage Academy, and, reportedly, the two do not intend to marry.
Runkles' father is president of the school board, so he's had a role in disciplinary actions taken on students in the past, although he resigned after his daughter announced her pregnancy.
"We've had other students that have had serious infractions, and they've walked in the past, and they're allowed to walk this year," he explained.
He's not the only one protesting Heritage Academy's punishment of Runkles. Her story has become news at a time when pregnancy is political and female bodies have become message boards for pro-life and pro-choice activists. Anti-abortion groups have condemned the high school for failing to acknowledge Runkles' decision to keep the baby, saying that the school's actions will push more girls to seek abortions rather than face punishment from their community. While speaking with The Washington Post, Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, called the school's decision "the antithesis of what it means to be Christian."
In fact, it seems that Runkles wants to be a message herself, describing her situation as "an incredible opportunity to set an example for the pro-life community and Christian schools about how to treat guys and girls like me."
While the political pro-life position is a severely problematic one, and unfortunately Runkles' story will be used as a way to further its cause, most of us can sympathize with how terrible it must feel to miss a milestone in one's life like high school graduation. Runkles has worked hard for this day, and high school graduation only ever happens once. For the school to take it from her only makes their "Christian" values as closed-minded as they're stereotyped to be.