US & Canada

Pregnant teenager banned from graduation ceremony

Maddi Runkles Image copyright Maddi Runkles
Image caption Maddi Runkles said she was glad she had decided to keep her baby

A pregnant US teenager branded "immoral" by her school and barred from its graduation ceremony is to have her own event, organised by her parents.

Maddi Runkles, 18, who attends a small private Christian school in Maryland, has been told she is not welcome at the event, on 2 June, because she must be "accountable for her immorality".

Instead, her parents have decided to organise a special party for their daughter the following day.

The decision by the board of governors of the Heritage Academy, in Hagerstown, has drawn criticism on social media from those who say the school is showing no Christian compassion to the teenager.

"Heritage Academy has opportunity to demonstrate love & grace of Jesus. Instead choosing judgement & shame," tweeted @WineyKnitter.

Image copyright @WineyKnitter Twitter

Dawn McQueen-Shaw also reprimanded the school board for not allowing Ms Runkles to "walk", take part in the graduation ceremony, writing; "My Jesus would not prevent Maddi Runkles from walking, He would've walked with her! Unlike the board full of hypocrisy."

Image copyright @madshaw Twitter

And "proud Christian" Ta Mika wrote: "The Bible says all fall short of god's glory. What happened to truth and grace?"

Ms Runkles, who had been president of the student council, is among the highest academic achievers in her year.

The teenager told CBS she had briefly considered having an abortion but "did the right thing" in deciding to keep her baby, a boy.

Various people lobbied on behalf of Ms Runkles, including her father, who eventually resigned as president of the school board over the matter.

'She was immoral'

Scott Runkles had still been on the board when his daughter was suspended for two days but stepped aside from being directly involved in the decision about her attendance at the graduation ceremony.

Mr Runkles, a bank vice-president, told the New York Times: "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.

"With Maddi, her punishment was set four months out.

"It's ruined her senior year."

Image copyright Maddi Runkles
Image caption Maddi Runkles (centre right) pictured with her brother, Evan, mother, Sharon and father, Scott

Pupils at the school are expected to agree to a code of conduct that includes that "no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of the marriage commitment between a man and a woman".

Ms Runkles also had support from anti-abortion organisations, including Students for Life.

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Refused to name father

In a statement, the school's head teacher, David R Hobbs, wrote: "Let me clarify some facts.

"Maddi is being disciplined, not because she's pregnant, but because she was immoral... her immorality is the original choice she made that began this situation."

Mr Hobbs denied he and the board were "harsh, cruel, hard-hearted men", adding that on the night of the graduation ceremony, he wanted "God to be glorified in a dignified manner".

Mr Runkles told the New York Times his family had arranged their own graduation party for his daughter on 3 June.

Ms Runkles says she will bring up her son, who is due in September, with the support of her parents.

She has refused to name the father but has said he does not attend Heritage Academy.

By Annie Flury, UGC and Social News Team

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