LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (WAND) - A 15-year-old girl was expelled from her Christian high school after administrators said a photo of her family birthday party in which she is wearing a rainbow sweater next to a rainbow cake is a "lifestyle violation."
“She was happy. She looked beautiful,” the teen’s mom, Kimberly Alford, told NBC affiliate WAVE of Louisville. “Of course, as a mom, I took her picture blowing out her candles, and I posted that on my Facebook page.”
But the celebration and smiles came to a halt when Alford received a letter from the head of Whitefield Academy, where her daughter, Kayla, was a freshman.
“The WA Administration has been made aware of a recent picture, posted on social media, which demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs,” said the letter, signed Jan. 6 by Head of School Bruce Jacobson. “We made it clear that any further promotion, celebration, or any other actions and attitudes that are counter to Whitefield’s philosophy would not be tolerated. As a result, we regret to inform you that Kayla is being dismissed from the school immediately.”
While rainbows can have many meanings, including just being a part of normal weather, they have served as a universal symbol of gay pride, acceptance, and support.
Whitefield Academy, located in Louisville, Kentucky, told NBC News the rainbow-filled photo was the last straw following two years of student code violations.
“Inaccurate media reports are circling stating that the student in question was expelled from our school solely for a social media post,” the statement said. “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.”
Alford said Kayla had been on probation since October for “some behavioral issues,” including cutting class and being caught with an e-cigarette. She said school administrators, “in a roundabout way,” told her that the probation was not about her daughter’s “sexuality.”
Alford said a school counselor gave her daughter the book “Gay Girl, Good God,” whose author, Jackie Hill Perry, is a formerly identified lesbian who claims God stopped her from being gay. That counselor had been meeting weekly with Kayla to discuss the book before she was expelled.
Whitefield Academy’s student handbook says a “homosexual orientation” household would not be considered “in harmony” with the school’s beliefs.
“On occasion, the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home may be counter or in opposition to the Biblical lifestyle the school teaches,” the handbook says. “This includes, but is not limited to, sexual immorality, homosexual orientation, or the inability to support Biblical standards of right and wrong.”
Alford filed an appeal with the academy, arguing that her daughter should not be “held accountable for a cake that I purchased with no intention of promoting a posture of morality and cultural acceptance that contradicts that of Whitefield Academy.”
Alford said the school refused to meet with her.
However, administrators did agree to change Kayla's expulsion to a voluntary withdrawal so it would no longer be on her record.
Kayla started public school Friday.