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Family of Teen Expelled for Rainbow Cake 'Lifestyle Violation' Now Suing School

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Jan 24, 2020
Kayla Kenney, 15, is pictured here with The Cake of Expulsion
Kayla Kenney, 15, is pictured here with The Cake of Expulsion  (Source:Kimberly Alford)

The parents of a Kentucky high schooler who was expelled from her Christian school after a photo of her posting with a rainbow-themed birthday cake went up on social media are now suing the school, local news source WDRB reports.

As reported previously at EDGE, Kayla Kenney's parents were informed of the girl's expulsion via email after officials at Whitefield Academy were allegedly tipped off about the photo, in which Kayla is seen with a rainbow-colored cake topped with the numbers 1 and 5 - the cake having been to celebrate her 15th birthday. Kayla's mother, Kimberly Alford, reportedly posted the photo.

The school characterized the photo as a "lifestyle violation" in opposition to the school's code. The email reportedly called the cake's decorative theme something that "just kind of represents gay pride."

But the student's purported parade of rainbow horrors didn't stop there. It got worse - so much worse. The same photo showed that Kayla was also wearing a shirt with a multi-colored, prismatic design across the front.

In the email, the family said, school head Bruce Jacobson referenced the photo as the reason for Kayla's expulsion, and suggested that the prevalence of the rainbow motif "demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy's beliefs."

The email also told the family that "we made it clear that any further promotion, celebration or any other action and attitudes counter to Whitefield's philosophy will not be tolerated," Courthouse News reported, adding that, according to Kayla's parents, school officials subsequently told the family the Kayla should have refused a cake that was decorated in multiple bright colors.

When the story hit the headlines, the school issued a statement in which it blamed Kayla's parents for making the situation into media fodder.

The statement said that "Inaccurate media reports are circling stating that the student in question was expelled from our school solely for a social media post."

Added the statement, "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."

The statement went on to say: "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."

Now the family is suing the school, claiming that the public statement about previous disciplinary issues amounts to a violation of the school's own policies around privacy. Moreover, reports said, the family is suing for emotional distress, defamation, and breach of contract.

The family is also suing "American Conservative" magazine over an article the purports to be "The True Story" about what happened, and which claims that the teen sexually harassed another young woman enrolled at the school. The magazine reportedly also claims that Kayla "promote[d] bisexuality."

But if anyone was harassed, the suit posits, it was Kayla, who, the suit says, was "mistreated by a school that her parents paid and trusted to keep her safe."

The family claim that in response to Kayla being found to be in possession of nicotine products, she got a talking to by the school's counselor - but not about the dangers of smoking. Rather, they claim, the counselor talked to their daughter about sexuality, Courthouse News reported.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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