Heritage Academy, a small Christian school in Maryland, banned senior Maddi Runkles from graduation this week despite her 4.0 grade point average. Why? Because she is pregnant.
In a letter to parents, the school principal said Maddi wasn’t being disciplined because she is pregnant but “because she was immoral.” According to an article by the Washington Post, Maddi admits she even considered having an abortion due to the humiliation and “continual punishment” from her Christian community. “Some pro-life people are against the killing of unborn babies, but they won’t speak out in support of the girl who chooses to keep her baby,” Maddi said.
Maddi’s story, and her school’s response, is a great opportunity to reframe the conversation about purity, shame and compassion. The solution: replacing a culture of shame with a community of compassion. Committing to live a lifestyle of virtue is something everyone should strive to do; however, humanity is fallen and imperfect. Perfection cannot be obtained here on earth; therefore, mistakes are inevitable. Maddi’s greatest frustration was that her classmates who had broken school codes in the past have not been found out or punished to the same degree because their misconduct was not visible.
While consequences and accountability are necessary, shame is not. Compassion and a spirit of change must be present in order for the message of virtue and grace to go forward.