An American teenager has been banned from walking at her graduation at her Christian school in Maryland because she is pregnant.
Maddi Runkles, 18, was told she was not allowed to walk in the ceremony at Heritage Academy because she was “immoral”. The teenager’s pregnancy breaches the school’s strict no “sexual activity” outside of marriage code.
Maddi told CBC Radio that she felt like she had been “shamed” for falling pregnant in January.
"I had a lot of fear just because of my background, growing up in church and stuff like that and going to a Christian school, and I just knew what everyone was going to think about me and my family once they found out," she said.
She added: "I was told that I was not allowed to come back to school, and I had to stay home and finish my classes, and I wasn't allowed to be seen on campus, and I could not attend any school event until after I had the baby.”
The teenager said the school’s hurtful policy had diminished her academic achievements.
“It hurts, because I feel like all of my academic accomplishments have just been kind of thrown away and I won't be acknowledged for everything I worked hard for,” she explained.
In a statement the school’s administrator David Hobbs confirmed Maddi will receive her diploma, but condemned the student’s actions.
"Maddi is being disciplined, not because she's pregnant, but because she was immoral,” he wrote. “(H)er immorality is the original choice she made that began this situation.”
The teenager says she has the full support of her friends and family through her pregnancy. Maddi's parents are even arranging a private graduation ceremony and she plans to go to college after school.
"I'm still going to go after everything that I wanted to before this happened," she said. "I'm just going to have to have a different path to get there."