In Louisville, Kentucky, 15-year-old Kayla Kenney celebrated her birthday at a restaurant with friends and family. Kimberly Alford, Kayla’s mom, took a video of Kayla laughing and smiling before she blew out the candles on the multicolored cake.
Alford uploaded the video on Facebook, hoping to share the joyous moment with friends and family. The video finally made its way to some of the staff at Kayla’s high school, Whitefield Academy.
The family later received an email from the school notifying them that Kayla was getting expelled, effective January 6. The letter cited "a continued breach of the Whitefield code of conduct, which was discussed in-person on October 17, 2019," as the reason for expulsion.
Alford stated that she received an email saying that Kayla’s behavior "demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy's beliefs." She maintained that the email was because of the Facebook post, although the school insisted that Kayla had violated the student code of conduct several times in the past two years.
Alford said, "I feel judged, she feels judged, very just devastating for us."
Whitefield Academy’s code of conduct addresses sexual orientation and states that a student's off-campus behavior has to align with the school’s beliefs or the student will face disciplinary action.
The school released a statement saying: "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."
Alford stated that she knew gay pride was represented using rainbow flags and rainbows in some contexts, but she wondered why the school concluded this applied to Kayla’s birthday video.
"She loves to laugh and dance, and that's just her. 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 said.
She filed an appeal, but stated that the school refused to hold a meeting with her. However, the school agreed to change the expulsion to a voluntary withdraw so that it would not be reflected on Kayla’s record.
Alford expressed concern that this may permanently impact daughter.
She stated, “We teach our kids, 'What would Jesus do?' What would he do here?"
A statement sent to ABC Owned Television Stations by Whitefield Academy reads:
"Inaccurate media reports are circling stating that the student in question was expelled from our school solely for a social media post. In fact, she has unfortunately violated our student code of conduct numerous times over the past two years. 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.
"Whitefield Academy is a Christian-based school with a 43-year history of educating students in a learning environment informed by our shared Christian values. 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. There are numerous school options in our community for students who do not wish to attend a Christian-based school, and we wish our former student all the best as she finds a learning environment that is right for her.
"Whitefield Academy is accredited by ACSI/AdvancEd and a member of the Non Public School Commission of Kentucky, and therefore we meet all Kentucky regulations and laws. Our code of conduct is on par with other private Christian schools in our area. 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."