Saturday, May 22, 1999

Pregnant senior loses valedictorian honor

The Associated Press

        RADCLIFF, Ky. — An 18-year-old senior will receive her diploma from Dove Christian Academy, but has lost her valedictorian title and been barred from graduation ceremonies because she is pregnant.

        Leah Carr, who has a 4.0 grade-point average and never been disciplined before, said she expected some punishment from the school run by Radcliff First Assembly of God.

        But she didn't expect to be removed as valedictorian for a class with four other seniors. Graduation is June 4.

        “I feel let down, betrayed,” Ms. Carr said. “I love them, I trusted them. I don't feel the

        support I was wanting. I don't expect anyone to pet me in my sins, but I do want forgiveness.”

        Her mother, who stressed she had no desire to unfairly criticize the church, agreed.

        “Leah was raised on godly principles, she knows right from wrong and she knows that she must be a representative of Christ,” said Lisa Carr.

        “I'm very angry and very hurt by this,” the mother said. “She's made a mistake and there is a consequence for sins, but Jesus never attached any conditions on forgiveness.”

        The church pastor, the Rev. Jim Henegar, declined comment because he did not have the opportunity to consult with legal counsel.

        Wanda Brakebill, principal at the school with 149 students, also declined comment.

        Larry Riggs, the parent of one of Ms. Carr's classmates, thinks the school was far too harsh. “She came to (the school leaders) out of respect. She humbled herself, not knowing what would happen,” he said.

        “She could have hid it, she could have had an abortion. Do we want kids to think that if they do wrong, there is not forgiveness? Do we want to promote abortion as the way to avoid ridicule from the church?”

        Mr. Riggs' daughter, Keri Mennemeyer, who is Ms. Carr's best friend, said she and a few other students disagreed with the board.

        “She was strong enough to be lieve in God, to believe he would forgive her and the school would forgive her, but she got let down,” she said.

        The Rev. Jerry Daughtry, pastor of Bible Baptist Church and principal of Hardin Christian Academy in Radcliff, said the school was “very fair.”

        “At my school, that person would have been expelled,” he said. “There are rules and regulations, and we can be forgiven but we still have to deal with the consequences.”

        Because the academy receives no state or federal funding, it can punish students for moral reasons.

        Public schools are required to provide equal education to all students and most provide parenting classes and child care for pregnant teens.

        Ms. Carr said she became pregnant six months ago while coping with her parents' divorce. She said the baby's father was not a Dove Academy student and has agreed to support the infant.

        “My character, my thoughts about things, my outlook on life have been molded by a lot of the things that have happened this year,” Ms. Carr said.

        “But through it all, I'm still standing. I still believe in Christ. I still believe God forgives.

        “I've got my head held high and I've got friends and family supporting me. I'm going to learn from my mistakes and no matter how hard I fall, I'm going to get back up.”


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