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9th grader expelled over birthday photo with rainbow cake, T-shirt, mother says

Girl expelled from school for rainbow birthday cake photo
WATCH: Girl expelled from school for rainbow birthday cake photo

The mother of a Kentucky girl who was expelled from her Christian private school for “lifestyle violations” says she was kicked out of the school after a photo of the teen in a rainbow sweater with a rainbow cake was posted on Facebook.

Kayla Kenney was ringing in her 15th birthday with family at a local restaurant when her mother, Kimberly Alford, snapped a photo of the teen.

“She was happy, she looked beautiful,” Alford told Wave3 News. “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.”

Not long after the photo was posted, it was shared with Kenney’s school, Whitefield Academy. Days later, Alford was contacted by the school’s principal, Bruce Jacobson, who informed her that her child would be expelled.

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Alford claims her daughter’s expulsion was the result of the social media post, saying she received an email from Jacobson mentioning the photo.

“It was an email expelling Kayla from Whitefield immediately due to a post on social media,” she told Wave3. “I feel judged, she feels judged, just very devastating for us.”

However, the school disputes this.

“Inaccurate media reports are circling stating that the student in question was expelled from our school solely for a social media post,” the school said in a statement shared with Global News.

“In fact, she has unfortunately violated our student code of conduct numerous times over the past two years,” the statement continued. “In the fall, we met with the student to give her a final chance to begin to adhere to our code of conduct. Unfortunately, she did not live up to the agreement and, therefore, has been expelled.”

Prince Harry stepped in to protect an openly gay soldier
Prince Harry stepped in to protect an openly gay soldier

According to Wave3, the email from Jacobson expelling Kenney cites two years of so-called “lifestyle violations” from the teen. The Courier Journal reports Kenney was on probation at the school after being found with Juul pods in October 2019.

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In the email, Jacobson reportedly said the photo of Kenney on her birthday “demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs.”

While the rainbow is a symbol for the LGBTQ2 community, Alford told the Courier Journal that her daughter is not gay.

“I just feel like it’s a label [school officials] have put on her,” Alford told the publication. “Just because I’m wearing a rainbow doesn’t mean I’m gay.”

According to Alford, a bakery receipt for the cake lists the design as “assorted colours.”

“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 colours,” Alford told Wave.

The academy’s code of conduct states a student’s off-campus behaviour can result in discipline if it doesn’t align with the school’s beliefs. This includes sexual orientation.

In the academy’s parent and student handbook from the 2017-18 school year, a section titled “Statement on Marriage, Sexuality, and Gender Identity” specifically states that “sexual immorality, (including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexual conduct…)” and “advocacy of sexual immorality” are sinful.

It also states that students who do not abide by the “seven major school rules,” which include the code of conduct requirements mentioned above, may be subject to suspension or expulsion.

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Alford said the school later agreed to change the expulsion to a voluntary withdrawal.

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

Kenney is now enrolled in a public school.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca