School expels student for rainbow shirt, birthday cake

National

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE/CNN) — A Kentucky teenager was expelled from her private school after a photo showed her wearing a rainbow shirt and smiling in front of a colorful cake for her 15th birthday.

Kimberly Alford said she posted the photo of her daughter, Kayla Kenney, to social media after the birthday celebration. 

“She was happy; she looked beautiful,” Alford said. “You know, of course as a mom, I took her picture of her blowing out her candles and I posted that on my Facebook page.”

But the post was shared with staff at Kayla’s school, and apparently, it was the last straw for Whitefield Academy. A few days later, Kimberly was contacted by Head of School, Dr. Bruce Jacobson.

“It was an email expelling Kayla from Whitefield immediately due to a post on social media,” Alford said. “I feel judged. She feels judged, just very devastating for us.”

The private school claims the picture is the latest in two years’ worth of “lifestyle violations.” In the email, Dr. Jacobson said the picture “demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs.”

The code of conduct does address sexual orientation and says if a student’s off-campus behavior isn’t in line with the school’s beliefs, the student can be disciplined. But Alford said she wants to know how the shirt brought them to that conclusion.

“She loves to laugh and dance and that’s just her,” Alford said. “There was nothing intended by that and even when I went back and got the receipt from the bakery, it didn’t say anything about representation, it just said assorted colors.”

Alford filed an appeal against the expulsion. She said the school refused to meet with her but agreed to change the expulsion to a voluntary withdrawal. So, it’s not on Kayla’s record anymore. Still, Alford said she fears feeling this level of judgment could have a permanent impact on her child.

“You know we teach our kids what would Jesus do,” Alford said. “What would he do here?”

Alford has enrolled her daughter in public school. After nearly four years making friends and settling in at Whitefield, it has been a tough transition — but the teenager is getting a lot of support.

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