A mom has alleged that a Christian high school in Louisville, Kentucky, expelled her teen daughter for posing next to a rainbow cake on her birthday. The school is defending its decision, saying the teen violated its code of conduct numerous times.
Kimberly Alford describes her 15-year-old daughter, Kayla Kenney, as a humorous, outgoing young girl who loves music and loves to dance. Kayla celebrated her birthday on her Dec. 30, and Alford posted a picture of her wearing a sweater with rainbow stripes posing next to a brightly colored birthday cake.
A week later, Alford said she received an email from the head of her daughter's high school, Bruce Jacobson. In the email, Alford said Jacobson wrote that Kayla had been expelled over a social media post. The email had that picture of Kayla and the cake attached to it, she said. The family also received a statement that she was being “dismissed” over a “continued breach of the [school’s] code of conduct.”
The rainbow flag is a symbol of the LGBTQ community, but Alford told BuzzFeed News, “This is not about sexuality. This is not about being gay. This is about me celebrating my daughter’s birthday with her.” Alford told the Courier-Journal, which first reported on the expulsion, that her daughter does not identify as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Alford said school authorities told her she “represented gay pride” when she bought the cake and that she should have refused it when she saw the colors. She added that she is not sure who may have shared the picture with the school, but that she’s friends with other parents, staff members, and teachers on Facebook.
Kayla had been a student at Whitefield Academy, a private Christian school that serves students from preschool through 12th grade, since the sixth grade. The academic guidelines shared on the school’s website state “the mission of Whitefield Academy is to serve Christian families by providing a Christ-centered, Biblically based education marked by academic excellence and spiritual vitality.”
It adds: “On occasion, the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home may be counter or in opposition to the Biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual immorality, homosexual orientation, or the inability to support Biblical standards of right and wrong.”
Alford shared that her daughter had past disciplinary issues with the school involving a haircut, missing classes, and e-cigarettes. She faced suspension last fall over vaping and was put on probation. Kayla met with disciplinary officers in October. Alford said there had been no academic or behavioral issues since.
In a separate incident, Alford alleged that the school recommended her daughter read Gay Girl, Good God, a book about a woman who stops identifying as a lesbian after a religious experience. Whitefield Academy did not respond to questions asking to confirm this.
Jacobson did not respond to a request for comment about Alford's allegations. In a more general statement shared with BuzzFeed News, the school said that the reports that Kayla had been expelled over a social media post are “inaccurate” and her expulsion was due to her violating the "student code of conduct numerous times over the past two years."
The statement added: “All parents who enroll their children in our private school know up front that we ask the students to adhere to a lifestyle informed by our Christian beliefs...It is unfortunate that one of the student’s parents chose to post internal family matters on social media, and we hope our former student is not adversely affected by what her parents chose to make public about her situation.”
Whitefield Academy didn’t respond to any questions asking for elaboration on the extent to which the picture influenced its decision to expel Kayla or about the “numerous” violations of the code of conduct referred to in the statement.
Alford appealed the decision, but her request was denied. She said she’s “looking into some things” regarding taking further steps against the school.