It’s part of her “punishment.”
18-year-old Maddi Runkles is set to graduate from Heritage Academy in Maryland next month, but when the big day comes, Maddi won’t be allowed on stage to accept her diploma. And while not walking at graduation could be punishment for school policy offenses like not returning library books or not paying off lunch fees, Maddi won’t walk as “punishment” for being pregnant.
According to The New York Times, Maddi’s Christian school decided she won’t be allowed to walk at graduation because she is pregnant. That’s not all — the school board also reportedly suspended her for two days after discovering she was pregnant, and removed her as president of the student council. Maddi reportedly found out she was pregnant in January, just before she received a college acceptance letter.
After the school found out Maddi was pregnant, the school board, of which her father was a member, gathered to discuss Maddi’s future at the school. As they deliberated, Maddi was suspended for two days, according to The New York Times. Maddi’s father has since resigned from the board because of how it treated his daughter. Instead of punishing Maddi once for “breaking a rule” by becoming pregnant, her father told the The New York Times the board issued a long-term punishment for his daughter.
“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 told The New York Times that she did, in fact, break a school rule by becoming pregnant, since the school reportedly bans any sexual activity outside of marriage. But she said she’s being punished more harshly than other students who have broken different school rules. The school told the New York Times in a statement that it’s “an internal issue about which much prayer and discussion has taken place,” but added that Maddi will receive a diploma.
Maddi is currently being defended by a national nonprofit antiabortion group that has celebrated her for keeping her baby. But when it comes to pregnancy at any age, there is help available for whatever option you choose. Maddi is far from alone as far as becoming pregnant as a teenager — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 229,715 babies were born to girls ages 15 to 19 in 2015.