This morning, I read a story about a fifteen year old girl named Kayla Kenney who got photographed blowing out the candles on her birthday cake at Texas Roadhouse. She wore a rainbow sweater and smiled pretty over a rainbow themed cake with two candles, a one and a five, on top. The photo was posted to Facebook and, apparently, that meant the end of Kayla’s freshman year at Whitefield Academy in Louisville, Kentucky. Someone shared the photo with officials at her school, and next thing she knew, she was a girl with “no class”… (sorry, for the obvious joke).
Kayla’s mom, Kimberly Alford, alleges that her daughter was expelled from the private Baptist affiliated academy solely because school administrators felt the colorful cake promoted “gay pride” and by posing with it, Kayla was endorsing homosexuality. Ms. Alford received an email from the school’s headmaster, Dr. Bruce Jacobson, who wrote that Kayla,
demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs and follows two years of lifestyle violations.
Alford admits that her daughter did have a couple of disciplinary issues at school. Once, she got caught with an e-cigarette (Juul Pods in her backpack) and another time, she was disciplined for cutting class. Jacobson did not provide details about Kayla’s transgressions in an emailed response to the Washington Post, but he did issue the following statement about this case:
“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. “In fact, she has unfortunately violated our student code of conduct numerous times over the past two years.”
Jacobson added that, “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.”
Furthermore, Jacobson writes that all of the families who enroll their children in the private Christian school, which takes students in grades K-12, are aware of the school’s rules and the expectations regarding the students’ conduct. Another article went into more detail about what Jacobson wrote than the Washington Post did.
However, although Ms. Alford acknowledges that Kayla has had some disciplinary problems in the past and was on probation, she states that since the e-cigarette incident, Kayla had not been in any trouble. Therefore, Ms. Alford concludes that Kayla’s rainbow themed birthday celebration was the reason she was kicked out of school, since rainbows and rainbow colored flags are often used to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride and support for LGBTQ rights. Ms. Alford also emphatically assures everyone that her daughter isn’t gay, even though she likes rainbow themed decorations.
So what do I think about this? Well… it seems to me that anyone who attends a Baptist affiliated school in which it explicitly states in the student handbook that homosexuality won’t be tolerated probably should have realized school officials would not appreciate a student giving off the slightest appearance of promoting homosexuality. That means that publicly posing with anything that has rainbows on it probably does put students on the school’s radar. And if a student has already been in trouble with the administrators over cutting class and having vaping paraphernalia, this might be the last straw. It’s ridiculous, of course, but so is paying money to attend a school with homophobic policies, especially in this day and age. Right here on page 18 of the school’s handbook is the following statement:
Role of the Christian School
Whitefield Academy’s Biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be Christ- like. On occasion, the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home may be counter or in opposition to the Biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual immorality, homosexual orientation, or the inability to support Biblical standards of right and wrong (Rom. 1:18-32, I Cor. 6:9). If the home environment is not in harmony with the school’s doctrinal belief in the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture and Biblical lifestyle, it will be difficult for the school to cooperate with the home and achieve the goal of a student becoming Christ-like. In such cases, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student.
So, while Dr. Jacobson claims that Kayla wasn’t kicked out over posing with the rainbow themed cake, I have a feeling that the rainbow themed cake, along with some of Kayla’s other “missteps” from the straight and narrow (ie; dressing like a “tomboy” and being “athletic”, as her mom puts it), made her appear to be less suitable for the strict Christian school, which claims to want to mold its students in the image of “Christ”, but in policy, seems rather un-Christlike to me. After all, Christ was all about being kind, forgiving, and inclusive, wasn’t He? But… as Whitefield Academy is a private school, I suppose they do have the right to make and enforce rules as they deem fit.
My comments about Kayla being “unsuitable”, by the way, isn’t a slam on her. I, myself, would be highly “unsuitable” as a student at that school. I like beer and I cuss like a sailor… and I support people loving whomever they choose to love, as long as the relationship is consensual and legal. I also highly object to this policy on page 17 in Whitefield’s handbook:
Fine Arts Works
All original student work, whether graphic, written or performed, is considered the property of Whitefield Academy. The school reserves the rights to print and reproduce copies of the student work for sale and display in an effort to continue to fund the training of students in a performing fine arts area. This policy also protects the amateur status of the serious fine arts student until such a time as he/she is ready to assume the responsibilities of a professional artist.
All original work produced by the student within the school and under the instruction of a Whitefield Academy instructor will be returned to the student at the end of the school year. The student is not permitted to sell any original work or copy of original work while holding the status of student at Whitefield Academy. The sale of original work or copies of an original work by a student may result in his removal from the Fine Arts Department or even dismissal from school.
Once a student has graduated, transferred or otherwise left Whitefield Academy, he will be granted by Whitefield Academy non-exclusive rights to any work done while at Whitefield Academy. These rights are non-exclusive: Whitefield Academy will maintain the right to reproduce from a copy any student work for resale or display while allowing the student to do the same from the original.
I think artists, performers, and writers get shafted enough as it is when it comes to ownership of their works. Whitefield Academy should not, in my view, lay claim to work done by a student. Just my opinion, though… and it would not top the list of reasons why I would never let my hypothetical child go there or to a similar school. However, I guess I do still support the all American right of freedom of choice.
Ms. Alford claims that her appeal to get Kayla back into her private Christian school was immediately denied. Kayla is now enrolled in a public school, which I think will be a better environment for her. Although Kayla’s older sister is a Whitefield Academy graduate, Kayla seems a bit too free-spirited and open-minded for such an intolerant environment. I hope that Ms. Alford gives some more thought about her decision to send her children to a school that espouses such “judgmental” policies. She apparently didn’t have a problem with those policies before her daughter was tripped up by one. I would encourage her to consider whether or not conservative Christians are really all that “Christlike” after all. Maybe public school is where God thinks Kayla should be… where she can be around people who are truly forgiven for their mistakes.
Lots of fine people would not fit in at Whitefield Academy. It seems to be a special kind of place for a special kind of people who happen to fit the conservative “Baptist” Christian norm. Plenty of wonderful people can’t do that even on their “best” day… and frankly, in my view, that’s often to their credit. Who wants to hang around a bunch of legalistic uniformed Bible thumpers, anyway? Why pay for that experience? I wish Kayla much success and happiness in her new school.