Pregnant teen fights to walk after being barred from Christian school's graduation ceremony

An 18-year-old high school student with a 4.0 GPA said it's unfair her private Christian high school barred her from graduation because she is pregnant.

Officials at the Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland, told Fox 5 the student, Maddi Runkles, is not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony next month because she violated the school's rules by engaging in premarital sex.

RELATED: These surprising things can affect your pregnancy

These surprising things can affect your pregnancy
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These surprising things can affect your pregnancy

1. Your pets

A recent study in Microbiome found that moms with furry pets like dogs and cats had babies with more healthy gut bacteria, even if the pets were no longer living with them after giving birth.

"Man’s best friend could be changed to a baby’s best friend," agrees Sherry Ross, MD, author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. "There is a positive effect for the baby when a pregnant woman exposes herself to her dog or cat 'hairs' in preventing allergies and making healthier gut bacteria. This happens when pregnant moms transfer strong immunities onto the baby, creating these health benefits."


2. Your headache meds

This is a controversial area: ibuprofen and aspirin have long been considered not great, but now research reports that Tylenol may be linked to ADHD, Butalbital may contribute to congenital heart defects, and Ondansetron could also carry several risks, according to a study in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. Ross recommends trying non-drug remedies to headaches or pain, like naps, heating pads, meditation, or acupuncture. If that doesn't work, Tylenol is OK—and still better than aspirin or ibuprofen.


3. Your partner

While there's a lot of focus on how moms might improve their babies' health, a dad's age, alcohol consumption, and diet can affect a child's chances of experiencing fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, obesity, and other physical and mental health issues, according to a study in the American Journal of Stem Cells.

"Dads should exercise regularly, drink less alcohol, have a BMI under 30 percent, eat a diet low in carbohydrates and high in protein, and take a multivitamin to optimize their health when planning to [have a baby]," says Ross.


4. The time of year when you got pregnant

Moms who get pregnant in May are 10 percent more likely to go into premature labor, according to a study in PNAS. The authors think this may result from moms getting the flu in winter, soon before the baby's born, which can trigger an early birth. While this possibility hasn't been ruled out, Ross says things like smoking, alcohol, drug use, insufficient weight gain during pregnancy, and a history of preterm births are more significant contributors to premature births.

Another study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that kids born in November were more athletic, possibly because their moms were exposed to more Vitamin D right before having them. A lot of people are deficient in Vitamin D, says Ross, and since it affects your fertility, it is a good idea to get yours checked if you're planning to get pregnant. But if you don't have access to sun, you can still get Vitamin D through supplements or food.


5. Your exposure to secondhand smoke

Pregnant women who spend time around people who are smoking are more likely to have babies with concentration and aggression issues, according to a study in Neurotoxicology. Children of moms exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant also have a higher risk of low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), says Ross. She recommends avoiding areas full of smoke while you're pregnant and asking any house guests who smoke to go outside or even change their clothes, since the chemicals can linger on them.



Runkles learned she was pregnant in January. She told the local outlet that she was suspended for two days after she informed school officials of her condition, and was consequently stripped of all her on-campus leadership positions.

The teen said the school mandated parents and students signed a vow at the start of the school year that stated, "This application extends to my actions, such as protecting my body by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs..."

Runkles signed the slip, which she said "is like a typical thing every school year."

Her father, Scott Runkles, who is the former president of the school's board, told reporters he disagrees with the school's decision.

SEE ALSO: Valedictorian barred from walking in high school graduation because of his goatee

"The difference is consistency because we have had other students that have had serious infractions and they have walked in the past and they are allowed to walk this year," her father said.

According to The New York Times, David Hobbs, a Heritage Academy Administrator, described the predicament as "an internal issue about which much prayer and discussion has taken place."

"You can't be pro-life, but then refuse to support the girl that keeps her baby," the teenager said.

If unable to attend the ceremony scheduled for June 2, Runkles said she plans to hold a private celebratory event her classmates and family will attend instead.

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