UPDATE June 4 at 8:01 p.m. EST
A teen barred from participating in her Christian high school's graduation because she's pregnant, received her diploma in a private ceremony on Saturday.
Students for Life of America presented 18-year-old Maddi Runkles of Hagerstown, Maryland, with a $16,000 scholarship and 7,000 messages of support and encouragement from people who heard her story.
“We are so proud of Maddi for not only her courage to make a good decision in difficult circumstances but to be an example to other students in similar situations and challenge Christian schools on their policies towards pregnant students like herself,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement.
Anti-abortion activists have spoken out against her school, saying administrators should have responded with grace and love.
A Heritage Academy administrator told WJLA he believes Runkles was shown grace by not being expelled and by being allowed to attend graduation, even though she couldn't be a part of it.
Our affiliate WJLA contributed to this update.
An 18-year-old in Hagerstown, Maryland, won't be allowed to walk at the graduation ceremony of The Heritage Academy because she's pregnant, WUSA reported.
The Heritage Academy, which is a Christian high school, says that Maddi Runkles' pregnancy violates their code of conduct.
"A lot of disappointment because I had worked so hard for that, and I made one mistake, and all my hard work was being taken away from me,” Runkles said.
Runkles is frustrated, feeling like she's being punished for choosing life. Her son, Grayson, is due in September. She keeps a sonogram on her bedside table. She had considered an abortion, but couldn't go through with it.
“But, you know, like, I just couldn't. Because I didn't think it was fair that I should take someone else's life just because I'm afraid of what's going to happen to mine. That's just not fair to me,” said Runkles.
Once the school became aware of Runkles' pregnancy, she was suspended for two days and removed from the student council.
Now she won't walk with the rest of her class on one of the biggest days of her young life, but says she would still walk at graduation if she was asked.
“Just to prove that this is how it should be. And for other schools to see, if they have a situation, that you should let the girl walk. It's not fair to take all of her hard work away," said Runkles.
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