‘Lifestyle violation:' 9th-grader expelled over rainbow birthday photo on Facebook

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Kentucky ninth-grader was expelled from her private school after a photo posted to her mother’s Facebook page caught the attention of administrators.

Freshman Kayla Kenney celebrated her 15th birthday with family at a restaurant in late December, WAVE reported. A photo from that day showed her smiling and wearing a rainbow top with a colorful birthday cake sitting on a table in front of her.

“She was happy," said her mother, Kimberly Alford. "She looked beautiful! 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."

The post was shared with the staff at Kayla’s school. A few days later, Alford was contacted by the head of the school, Dr. Bruce Jacobson.

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

The school claimed the photo was the latest in two years’ worth of “lifestyle violations.” In an email, Jacobson said the picture quote demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to 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, they can be disciplined. Alford wants to know how the shirt brought them to that conclusion.

“She loves to laugh and dance, and that’s just her,” she 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. She said the school refused to meet with her, but they agreed to change the expulsion to a voluntary withdrawal so it doesn't appear on Kayla’s record. Alford said she fears the incident could have a permanent impact on her daughter.

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

The Kentucky school pushed back, calling it inaccurate that the student was expelled solely for the social media post.

The school released a statement saying in part: “It is unfortunate that the 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.”