Maddi Runkles, the Maryland teen who got pregnant and was banned from her Christian high school's graduation ceremony, keeps making national headlines.
My GetReligion colleague Julia Duin earlier critiqued the New York Times' original story on this controversy and noted that key voices were missing:
What about the reaction of other families who are sending their kids to this school? Do they side with Runkles or are they glad she’s being made to pay for her mistake?
After reading additional reports on Runkles' plight — via major media outlets such as the Washington Post and Religion News Service — I must say that I am even more interested in the answers to the questions Duin raised.
The Post story notes:
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.
Later in the story, the newspaper includes these alarming claims:
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.
“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.”
But the Post doesn't bother to quote any of those critics — even indirectly: If there are social media posts directed at Runkles from fellow students' parents, wouldn't it be easy enough to reference exactly what was said and by whom and let readers judge the, um, nastiness? Are the posts a matter of parents simply disagreeing with Runkles' position — which in a teen's world might qualify as "attacks" — or are they indeed harsh and un-Christian? Some specificity would help readers decide.
Meanwhile, RNS noted that the school's head released a statement to the school's "family." Again, it would be interesting to know how that "family" — including fellow seniors and parents — are responding to the school's decision.
To this point, media reports have focused on Runkles, her parents, the school's principal and pro-life spokespeople disappointed in the Christian school's approach. Those perspectives are relevant and interesting.
But readers need to hear, too, from other stakeholders in the Heritage Academy community.
Without their voices, a key angle of this viral story remains untold.