Maddi Runkles was a straight-A student, president of the student council and a star of the varsity soccer team. But her high school, Heritage Academy, banned her from attending graduation ceremonies with her classmates.
That’s because the Boonsboro, Maryland, teen became pregnant.
A few months ago, Runkles, now 18, said she felt like she had the flu, but it wouldn’t go away, so she knew something was up.
“I decided to go get a test, just to be sure, and I found out I was pregnant that way,” she said.
Runkles said she was scared at first and couldn’t believe this had happened to her.
“I wanted to go have an abortion because I was scared to death what people would think of me,” she said. “My reputation, I thought it would be ruined.”
For Runkles, keeping the baby required a leap of faith. She knew full well her Christian school would disapprove of her being a single teenage mother.
Indeed, Heritage Academy treated Runkles’ pregnancy as a violation of its strict moral code. The baby’s father was not a student at Heritage and was already in college at the time, so the school punished Runkles alone.
“Even though we love Maddi, even though we forgive her, there’s still accountability,” Principal Dave Hobbs told ABC affiliate WJLA. “This has been a breach of the standard of abstinence.”
Hobbs declined ABC News’ “Nightline”‘s interview requests.
The principal suspended Runkles for two days while the school board weighed her punishment. Hobbs then decided to inform the school in what some called a public shaming.
“There was an all school assembly that was called by the principal, Mr. Hobbs, and he sent a letter out to the ninth through 12th-grade parents letting them know that something had come up,” said Maddi Runkles’ mother, Sharon Runkles. “He didn’t want her there and then she said, ‘No I’m going to be there.’”
Maddi Runkles asked Hobbs if she could personally address the school and ask for forgiveness.
“I apologize to all of you for any disappointment that I may have caused,” Maddi Runkles said, reading from the letter she wrote to her classmates. “But right now I need your love and support more than your judgment. Christians should be defined by grace and love not hate. I ask each of you to please support me as I go through my pregnancy.”
But despite her pleas, the school handed down a severe punishment.
“She was not allowed back on campus, and we also have a son at the time he was…