Monday, May 22, 2017

Students For Life Imperiously Demeans Heritage Academy

NOTE - Update at bottom
A lot of Christian sites are atwitter with a situation that has originated at Heritage Academy, a private Christian school in Hagerstown, MD, an hour's drive away from my home.  I learned of this primarily through news feeds from Students for Life.  They have posted an account of it on their site.  To their credit, they seem to have stated all the facts, although their disdain for the school is evident.

This is what I gather.  Heritage Academy is a private K-12 Christian school.  Its students sign a pledge (perhaps when they are old enough to understand it) promising to abide by Christian values; among other things, they promise not to engage in premarital sex, do drugs, drink alcohol.  A graduating senior named Maddi Runkles violated the pledge and became pregnant as a result.  It appears that the boy with whom she fornicated is not a student of the Academy.  Prior to that she occupied leadership positions in the Key Club and Student Council.  She was removed from those positions and will not be allowed to participate in commencement ceremonies.  She will receive her diploma.

Her father was president of the school board.  He resigned in protest over the disciplining of his daughter.  The Runkle family made contact with Students for Life through another agency and the result is the campaign that you see on the SFL site as they try to gin their followers into browbeating the Heritage Academy to do their bidding.

Maddi did toy with the idea of abortion.  To her immense credit she did not go that route and will give birth to her baby.  No one would think of condemning her.  What I must denounce, however, is the de facto demonization of the Heritage Academy administrators.  The SFL post is full of pejorative language aimed at the school, as are many of the comments on SFL's facebook page.  I will now unpack some of it, bit by bit, in "bullet" style.
  • The very title "you won't believe what her Christian school did" is designed to introduce the initial bias against the school.  This is a clear case of none-too-subtle peer pressure.
  • "what they did to Maddi for her mistake was unnecessarily cruel and set a bad example of what it means to be a pro-life Christian"  Dear SFL, with all due respect, you've no basis for sitting in judgment over the decisions of this school.
  • "Punishment without Compassion"  Who is defining the language here?
  • "Doesn’t that break your heart?"  And it better break your heart, or else you are judgmental and lack compassion.  Notice the manipulation?
Kristin Hawkins said she tried to convince the principal to see things her way, but he didn't bite the bait.  Did it not occur to her that he isn't answerable to her for his decisions?  Perhaps there are facts and other considerations that the principal won't divulge, simply because they are none of our damned business.  For that reason alone, SFL does not know what is the correct course of action in this matter; nor do I.  I, however, do not pretend to know it, let alone presume to urge others to strong-arm Heritage Academy to following any arbitrary dictates.

Too many commenters (and other bloggers) are following SFL's leads, allowing themselves to be swayed by the emotions ginned up by SFL's irresponsible post.  Some of the ridiculous comments include:
  • "punished for choosing life"
  • "the administrators should be ashamed of themselves"
  • "the school is not showing Christ's love"
Now precisely who are being the judgmental and condemning ones?  One comment said the school should "remove the plank from their own eye".  I might suggest that SFL and some of these commenters follow that excellent advice.

UPDATE - Something just dawned on me.  The SFL post mentions that New York Times did a write-up.  Indeed they have.  Bear in mind that on the national scale, Heritage Academy is a relatively small school, not one to be easily noticed.  So how did the NYT come to hear of this in order to do a piece?  Who told them?  Why?  Something about this whole situation does not pass the "smell test".


  1. Thank you for this post. Too often those of us involved in pro-life work get swept into an indifferentism we would never accept when it comes to abortion itself. Recognizing that abortion is wrong does not require us to close our eyes to the fact that fornication is also wrong. The young woman who became pregnant out of wedlock must face the consequences of her actions; as pro-life people, we recognize that doing things God's way is best for all. This means doing EVERYTHING His way. The pro-life movement betrays not only young women like this one, but also its own principles, by backing down on the whole truth as Students for Life is doing.

    1. Again, I don't pretend to know what is the correct course of action that the school should take. SFL cannot either; they should cease presuming to do so and they should cease their campaign to badger the school administration into following their dictates.

  2. Normally. when these kids sign a contract, the parents do too.
    If the parents signed a contract stating that it is understood that rulebreaking results in not being able to walk in the graduation ceremony, then there is not even a story here. They knew exactly what would happen.
    It's not the end of the world. If she had robbed a grocery store and broken that rule, she wouldn't walk either. The end ceremony is a privlege.

    1. As a parent of a former Heritage Academy student I can tell you with certainty that the code of conduct does not list specific punishments for rules violations. Only that there will be punishments. Her suspension several months ago and removal from the student government should have satisfied the punishment. There is no mention of exclusion from the graduation ceremony as a punishment. That is something that the school just added to her punishment within the past few days, months after her official punishment was compleated. The main issue here is that this has not been done before, other students who have broken the code of conduct are allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony including some students caught underage drinking. Heritage Academy has forgotten the main teaching of Christianity which is forgiveness. They continue to punish and judge.

    2. The main teaching of Christianity, as I understand it, is salvation. That entails repentance. Yes, forgiveness is an integral part of that, but so is the remedy of discipline. I do not pretend to know what is the proper course of action in this case, but "chose forgiveness" I daresay you don't either, for neither of us knows all the pertinent facts. In the SFL post and others that I've seen (on facebook mainly) the school administration is being viciously pilloried and slandered.

      I pray that they make the proper decisions, without reference to this "court of public opinion" that seems to be railing against them.

    3. My view may be biased because of my own experience with this particular school and the embarrassment they put my daughter through in elementary school for simply talking during a fire drill. Their punishments seem designed to humiliate not discipline.

  3. Maybe they didn't at the time your child was there and they do now. I don't know. Could you link to the Code of Conduct so we can see?

  4. I wish I could, but the code of conduct is a paper document, Heritage Academy does not have it online. My experiences there left a very bad impression. I mentioned the fire drill thing briefly, but also My daughter was told she needs better morals because her boyfriend gave her a hug in public when her grandmother had just died. A HUG! Seriously?

  5. Maybe Heritage should do away with their antiquated pledge of abstinence. Then they could have multiple pregnant females walking the stage for their diplomas.

    Or maybe SFL should STHU about Heritage. Does being pro-life mean thumbing your nose at morals and vows now? This girl will be just fine---she'll still get her diploma and go to college.

    I miss the old days---when you went to live with Aunt Helen for a few months , quietly put the baby up for adoption and then returned home. Life was better then.

    Seattle kim


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