A small Christian school in Maryland defended its decision to ban a pregnant student from attending her graduation ceremony on June 2.
Officials at the Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, said the student, Maddi Runkles, 18, will not allowed at the ceremony because she violated the school’s code of conduct by having premarital sex, Fox 5 reported.
“Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral,” David R. Hobbs, the administrator of Heritage Academy, said in a statement to the school’s parents, according to USA Today.
Hobbs mentioned that all students sign a vow at the beginning of the school year stating in part, “this application extends to my actions, such as protecting my body by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.”
“Heritage (Academy) is also pleased that she has chosen to not abort her son,” Hobbs wrote. “However, her immorality is the original choice she made that began this situation. Secondly, she will receive her diploma that she has earned.”
Runkles learned she was pregnant in January. When she informed the school about her pregnancy she was suspended for two days and stripped of all her leadership positions.
The baby’s father does not attend the academy and the two do not intend on getting married, Runkles said.
At first, the school told Runkles that she would have to finish the rest of the school year at home, but her family appealed. The school then decided to let the teen finish out the academic year at the academy but she would be barred from the graduation ceremony, according to the Washington Post.
Runkles’ father, Scott, a former president of the school’s board, quit the board to protest the school officials' treatment of his daughter.
“The difference is consistency because we have had other students that have had serious infractions and they have walked in the past and they are allowed to walk this year,” Scott Runkles said.
“The school is worried about its reputation, but I think they’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to set an example for the pro-life community and Christian schools about how to treat guys and girls like me,” the teen said.
A number of anti-abortion activists are voicing their support for Runkles and her decision to speak out on the matter.
“By banning her and her alone, the administration and board collectively decided to make a public example of one student and has either intentionally or unintentionally communicated to the school community that pregnancy (not simply premarital sex) is a shame and should not be observed within our school community,” Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life, said in a statement.
If the teen is indeed turned away at the graduation ceremony then she plans to hold a private ceremony and invite her classmates. She is due to give birth to a baby boy on Sept. 4.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.