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Christian school: Teen banned from graduation ‘not because she is pregnant but because she was immoral’


本文选自 The Washington Post | 取经号原创翻译

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High school senior and straight A student Maddi Runkles is pregnant and now her Christian school is banning her from walking at her graduation ceremony next month. (Reuters)


A small Christian school in western Maryland is not backing down from its decision to ban a pregnant senior from walking at graduation next week.


Despite a public outcry and growing pressure from national antiabortion groups to reconsider, Heritage Academy in Hagerstown says that senior Maddi Runkles broke the school’s rules by engaging in intimate sexual activity. In a letter to parents Tuesday evening, school principal David R. Hobbs said that Runkles is being disciplined, “not because she is pregnant but because she was immoral. … The best way to love her right now is to hold her accountable for her morality that began this situation.”


Runkles, 18, is a 4.0 student who has attended the school since 2009. She found out she was pregnant in January and informed the school, where her father was then a board member, in February. Initially the school told Runkles that she would be suspended and removed from her role as student council president and would have to finish the rest of the school year at home.


After the family appealed, Heritage said it would allow Runkles to finish the school year with her 14 classmates but she would not be able to walk with the other seniors to receive her diploma at graduation. The family believes that the decision is unfair and that she is being punished more harshly than others who have broken the rules.


 “It’s because I’m pregnant and you can see the results of my mistake,” Runkles said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “There have been kids who have broken the student code and they could have hurt people or even gone to jail and they only received an in-school suspension and they’re allowed to walk this year. The school is worried about its reputation, but I think they’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to set an example for the pro-life community and Christian schools about how to treat guys and girls like me.”


To Hobbs, a long-time educator completing his first year as the school’s principal, the decision to not allow Runkles to take part in graduation resulted from her actions. He thinks she needs to be held responsible and believes the penalty will be instructive to other students.


“The breach of a standard of abstinence is a grievous choice,” he said in an interview. “Maddi made a grievous choice. We do believe in forgiveness, but forgiveness does not mean there’s no accountability.”


Breach: /bri:tʃ/ n. a failure to do sth that must be done by law (对法规等的)违背,违犯

Abstinence: /ˈæbstənəns/ n. the practice of not allowing yourself sth, especially food, alcoholic drinks or sex, for moral, religious or health reasons (因道德、宗教或健康原因对饮食、酒、色等的)节制;禁欲

Grievous: /ˈɡrivəs/ n. (formal) very serious and often causing great pain or suffering 极严重的;使人痛苦的;令人伤心的

Accountability: /əˌkaʊntə’bɪlətɪ /问责

Hobbs said Heritage, which opened in 1969 and has 175 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, emphasizes abstinence and tells students to “maintain their purity until their wedding night.”


“We teach our students about the beauty of marriage and that sex inside of marriage is one of the things that is beautiful about marriage,” he said.


But while the school reaffirmed its decision, antiabortion groups have rallied to support Runkles. They argue that by singling out a pregnant student, the school is making it more likely that young women will choose abortion rather than suffer embarrassment and punishment.


“It’s a bad decision,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life. “I was horrified when I learned that they wouldn’t let her walk at graduation. Usually when a woman is facing an unwanted pregnancy, especially a young woman, there is a sense of shame that comes into play and can have an impact on her decision and often does.”

“这是一个糟糕的决定,” 公益组织“为生命游行”的负责人琴·曼奇尼说道,“当我听闻校方竟不准她参加毕业典礼时,实在太惊骇了。通常而言,当女性意外怀孕,尤其是年轻女性,不可避免会产生一种羞耻感,而这可能会影响她此后的决定,通常来说也确实如此。”

Mancini said that while she respects the school’s code of conduct she worries about what the next pregnant student will do.


“What she needs is support, and what the school is doing is really the opposite of that,” she said. “It’s the antithesis of what it means to be Christian.”


Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, also criticized the school. “By banning her and her alone, the administration and board collectively decided to make a public example of one student and has either intentionally or unintentionally communicated to the school community that pregnancy (not simply premarital sex) is a shame and should not be observed within our school community,” she said in a statement.


Maddi Runkles, a senior at Heritage Academy, a private Christian school, will not be allowed to walk during the upcoming graduation ceremony because she was immoral, the school principal says. 


Runkles said her situation has drawn so much media attention in the past week, with her story being told by the New York Times, CBS and Fox, that some friends and classmates who once supported her now think she is just seeking publicity. The backlash has been severe, especially on social media, where she says strangers, acquaintances and parents of other students have attacked her.


Backlash: /ˈbæklæʃ/ n. a strong negative reaction by a large number of people, for example to sth that has recently changed in society (对社会变动等的)强烈抵制,集体反对

“It has really gotten out of control,” Runkles said. “Moms of students have tagged me and said nasty things about me. I’ve had students start group messages to start nasty rumors. People saying I’m just attention-seeking and spoiled.”

“一切真的开始失控了”, 朗克斯说道,“一些学生的母亲给我打上了羞耻的烙印,还用污言秽语来辱骂我。也遇到过有学生群发短信,散布下流的谣言。有人说我只是在寻求关注,被宠坏了而已。”

The blowback led Runkles’s parents to pull Maddi and her 9th-grade brother out of the school for the remainder of the year. Her father, Scott Runkles, has resigned from the school’s board and her brother will transfer to another Christian school in the fall.


While she feels that her experience at Heritage has been ruined, Runkles says she is grateful for the support from her family and the Baptist church she belongs to in Frederick. She has also become involved in antiabortion activism, taking part in rallies and speaking out against federal funding for Planned Parenthood.


“I chose life and sometimes it feels like it wasn’t worth it, but then it’s been kind of a blessing because I have a big platform to help other people,” she said.


Runkles, who has been accepted to Bob Jones University, a Christian school in South Carolina, doesn’t believe Heritage will change its mind about letting her walk at graduation June 2, but she said that if it does, she will take part.


“I would love to attend because my best friends will be there and I want to share that with them,” she said. “Some people are upset because they think I’m out to get the school, but I’m not. I just want them to do the right thing.”


Still, Runkles isn’t holding her breath waiting for the school to reconsider. And she has other things on her mind. Her baby boy is due Sept. 4.



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