Pregnant Teen Banned From Graduation by Her Christian School Speaks Out: “They Humiliated Me”

Opinion   |   Madeline Runkles   |   Jun 1, 2017   |   9:35AM   |   Washington, DC

I’m only 18 years old, and I’m about to have a baby boy in the fall as a result of my deliberate failure to adhere to a pledge of chastity I signed at my school.

Until this year, I was an ordinary high school student at Heritage Academy, a Christian school in Hagerstown, Md. I was the president of the student council and vice president of the Key Club. I played soccer, had a 4.0 GPA, and ate ice cream and watched movies with my best friends on the weekends. My Christian faith is also extremely important to me, so I involved myself at my church working in the nursery, helping out with Vacation Bible School and helping my mom with meals for church bus drivers on Sunday mornings.

But in January, all that changed. What I thought was the flu was actually the very beginning of my pregnancy. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I was going to graduate in a few months with very good grades and then in the fall I was going to head off to Bob Jones University in South Carolina.

I am a born-again Christian, one who made a mistake with a very visible consequence. Even though I grew up knowing abortion was wrong, I also knew that it would make things easier for me — no one would know what I had done, and I could get on with my life. I had seen women being forgiven who admitted to having abortions, while women who kept their babies seemed to be harder to forgive. But the more I thought about abortion, the more I knew I couldn’t go through with it. In my view, abortion is taking a life. And I couldn’t do that.

I told the baby’s father first. I didn’t know how to tell my parents, because even though they were very involved in both my brother’s life and mine, telling my parents I was pregnant at 18 wasn’t at the top of my list of things I thought I would ever do.

Finally, I broke down in a grocery store parking lot with my mom, and I cried as I told her the truth. She looked at me and said: “I’m not mad at you, I’m not upset with you. You’re gonna be fine, and we’re gonna make it through this.” I still had to work up the courage to tell my dad, but when I finally did — the day I received my acceptance letter to Bob Jones — he reacted just like my mom: “It’s going to be okay, sweetie,” he said, “God is in this somewhere, we just need to find where He is in all of this.”

Click here to sign up for pro-life news alerts from

Unfortunately, my school didn’t feel the same way.

My dad was, at the time, the president of the board at Heritage Academy. He called an emergency board meeting to explain my situation. I was not allowed to attend school as my principal and the board decided if I would be allowed to return at all, and I would be stripped of all leadership positions. I wasn’t allowed to attend sports games to watch my brother play basketball or baseball, and I wouldn’t be allowed on campus until after the baby was born. I would be allowed to receive my diploma, but I would have to take all my classes at home, and wouldn’t be allowed to walk at graduation.

This felt overly harsh to me and my parents, so my dad asked the principal and the board to reconsider. He argued that the only difference between me and other seniors who had broken the school’s moral code in various ways was that I was pregnant, and they were trying to hide me away because they were embarrassed by my visible sin. My principal and the board finally changed their decision: I would be allowed back to finish the year with my classmates, but I couldn’t be in any leadership positions in school clubs, and I still couldn’t walk at graduation.

On top of all of this, my principal called an assembly of the entire high school, and invited school families, to tell everyone what had happened. He told me I didn’t need to be there, but I volunteered to tell them myself. I was a senior and a campus leader, so I felt like I should stand there myself and tell them what I did.

In front of the whole school, I got up and started to read a statement that I wrote, explaining that I had broken the rules, that I was repentant and that I asked for forgiveness. But I couldn’t get through it. My dad had to read some of it while I composed myself. It was one of the hardest things I ever did, and I’m so sorry, not for myself, but for any girl in that audience who will get pregnant in the future and may consider abortion because of what I had to go through.

After that, I got involved with Students for Life of America, as I wanted to use my story to help other girls like me. Part of their mission is to help pregnant girls and teenage mothers on campuses like myself who are treated unfairly. They had seen similar situations and after trying to persuade the school privately, which was unsuccessful, we decided to take my story to the media in hopes to create a national conversation about how girls like me should be treated.

When girls like me who go to pro-life schools make a brave pro-life decision, we shouldn’t be hidden away in shame. The sin that got us into this situation is not worth celebrating, but after confession and forgiveness take place, we should be supported and treated like any other student. What we are going through is tough enough. Having to deal with the added shame of being treated like an outcast is nothing that any girl should have to go through.

Many of the people in my town and at my school who had supported me and my family have turned on us since I went public, feeling that all the scrutiny was hurting Heritage Academy’s reputation. We started getting nasty emails, angry posts on social media and rude remarks in person. People who had been supportive before are now telling me to shut up, suck it up and grow up. Because of the volume of anger from the community, my parents have decided to keep my brother and me at home for the rest of the school year.

I’m still not allowed to walk at graduation this month, but I still wouldn’t change my decision to keep my baby — a boy, who I want to name Greyson. Even though it’s been hard losing support in my town, even though my school has drawn out my punishment over months, I want other girls in my position to know you don’t have to give in to pressure or fear of judgment.

My school could have made an example of how to treat a student who made a mistake, owned up to it, accepted the consequences, and is now being supported in her decision to choose life. But they didn’t. It is my hope that the next Christian school will make the right decision when the time comes.

LifeNews Note: Madeline Runkles is a high school student in Maryland.