Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child was conspicuously absent from his own middle school graduation on Friday -- and we're told, it's all because his family wanted to protect him.
Sources close to Mildred Baena tell TMZ, she pulled her 14-year-old son out of school last month -- soon after the story broke that Arnold was his real father.
According to sources, photographers had started to camp outside the Bakersfield middle school where Arnold's son was a student -- and Mildred decided to yank him out ... to protect him from the media.
His graduation ceremony took place Friday morning -- and his name was even on the program -- but we're told he wasn't present ... because the family didn't want him parading around in public.
We're told the family desperately wants the whole scandal to blow over ASAP -- so their lives can return to normal.