The statement below is from Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which is in response to Mr. Hobbs. Read the entire background of the story in our blog post here.
Being a school administrator in today’s world is no easy task. Our children are faced with challenges and social pressures that many could not have imagined 10 or 20 years ago. I do not envy the task of these leaders who serve to mentor students in both educational and personal pursuits. Balancing care for individual students while also preserving the interests of one’s educational institution is a daunting task, and addressing issues of discipline is a duty that no administrator takes lightly.
I do not doubt that “countless hours in prayer and discussion” were engaged in prior to deciding Maddi’s discipline. I don’t doubt that the administration cares deeply for each of its students. I agree that I do agree that the “conduct of your children is not everyone’s business” and even more so, that discipline is “not the absence of love, but the application of love.” However, the conduct and disciplinary measures of your school does become “everyone’s business” when such actions will likely influence the behaviors of others within the community (i.e. in the model set as to how to treat a pregnant student and the real potential to influence students away from the church and pro-life values) as well as will impose a public example of one student (by banning Maddi, and only Maddi, from walking at graduation).
With any private or even public institution, there are rules to which students must be held accountable. In a Christian school, those rules must respect the school’s faith traditions and ideally lead students towards a deeper understanding of their faith.
Disciplining Maddi is not the issue. Her discipline was decided, communicated, and executed. For the most part, this was done so with care for the family’s privacy and with fair response to the pledge broken (i.e. “abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs”).
However, my primary and continued complaint is that the disciplinary actions of the administration has extended far beyond accountability for the broken pledge regarding premarital sex. That accountability was served justly and humbly in Maddi’s confession, her suspension, and her removal from leadership positions. What was initially a punitive and learning moment has transformed into a public lesson (before this even was announced to the media). By banning Maddi from walking at graduation, the administration and board collectively decided on a disciplinary measure of an obviously public nature.
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.
To some observers, walking at graduation may appear to be of little importance. In fact, some students even willingly choose to abstain from graduation events and ceremonies. However, in this situation this honor is notably being given great importance in that the administration and board has decided that it is too great of an honor or too obvious of a platform to present on which to present a pregnant girl with her earned academic achievements.
In the past five years, no other student has been banned from walking at graduation for failing to abstain “from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.” From what we’ve learned thus far*, the last known cases of this happening occurred in the 70s and 80s. Currently, Maddi is the only student banned from walking at graduation. In a class of only 15 students, her absence will be obvious and can only be explained in that her immorality is visible (unlike the errs of past and present students).
Maddi has been disciplined and humbled before her school community, her teachers, and her peers. She has already faced months of ridicule and criticism, and she continues to confront the scorn of peers and strangers. Her decisions to publicly share her story came only after her family’s unsuccessful attempts to reason with the administration and the board regarding this final matter. She has repeatedly defended the school, even today posting “I, in no way want to see Heritage Academy fail. I love my school.”
It appears that the school is not satisfied that she has repented of and been held accountable for her initial offense, and that satisfaction of such only comes at a public cost (i.e. not walking at graduation).
To be clear, I called Mr. Hobbs to privately discuss this matter, to explain our position, and to come to a compassionate understanding and resolution. Certainly all involved (including myself) would have preferred a private, internal resolution to this very difficult situation [his letter to me available here]. It did not have to be this way, but here we are. And in this light, all will be judged in how this situation has been handled.
*This post has been edited to reflect new information. According to a Heritage Academy student (who attended in the late 70’s and early 80’s), there were 3 students who were banned the right to walk at graduation. We believe that this information does not change the concern that banning visibly pregnant students from graduation is excessive and does not encourage a life-affirming culture within the student body.