LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Christian school in Louisville expelled a student last week after her family said school officials discovered the girl had celebrated her birthday with a rainbow-themed cake.
Kimberly Alford told The Courier Journal that until Jan. 6, her 15-year-old daughter had been a freshman at Whitefield Academy, a private school at 7711 Fegenbush Lane that serves students in preschool through 12th grade.
That's when Alford said she received an email from Whitefield Academy's head of school, Bruce Jacobson, explaining how her daughter was being expelled "immediately due to a post on social media."
Alford had recently posted a photo on her Facebook page showing her daughter celebrating her birthday in late December at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. In the photo, the girl is wearing a sweater featuring a rainbow design and sitting by a colorful, rainbow-themed cake.
Alford said someone shared the Facebook photo with Whitefield Academy officials.
In the email, Alford said Jacobson wrote that the picture "demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs” and follows two years of "lifestyle violations."
The rainbow flag often is used as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride and support for LGBTQ rights.
But Alford said her daughter is not gay and the cake was simply a fun treat, with the bakery receipt listing the design as "assorted colors."
Alford added that the Whitefield Academy Parent Teacher Fellowship has even featured a rainbow image on its private Facebook page before later taking it down after the expulsion of her daughter.
"I just feel like it's a label (school officials) have put on her," Alford said. "Just because I'm wearing a rainbow doesn't mean I'm gay."
Jacobson, Whitefield Academy's head of school, told The Courier Journal that the expulsion came after "two years of continuous violations of our student code of conduct."
Jacobson wouldn't say whether the photo of the rainbow cake and shirt led to the expulsion but said the girl had faced "a progression of discipline."
"All the families of students know that they have expectations they need to (follow)," Jacobson said. "We always try to work with families over a period of time."
Alford said her daughter wears "tomboy-type clothing" from time to time and has always been athletic, but the photo of her with the rainbow cake and outfit "meant nothing."
"She did nothing wrong," Alford said.
Alford said she and her daughter had met with school officials last October and that a school disciplinary officer found Juul pods in the girl's backpack.
Following the meeting, Alford said everyone agreed that her daughter "would be on probation."
"Any other behavior issues could cause her to be expelled," Alford said. "Since October, there have been no disciplinary issues. There have been no academic issues. There has been nothing."
According to Whitefield Academy's parent/student handbook, high school students may face expulsion "when there is a serious departure from the school's guidelines" for student conduct.
A section on student behavior says Whitefield'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," the handbook states.
"… 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."
The handbook adds that Whitefield Academy high school students face numerous disciplinary options before expulsion, including detention, disciplinary referrals and suspension.
The handbook adds that students and their parents or guardians may appeal expulsions within three days.
Alford said her appeal was denied. She said Jacobson told her the cake and the sweater "just kind of represents gay pride" and that Alford "should have refused the cake."
Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, said if the photo factored into the student's expulsion, then the school's action "seems incredibly outrageous."
But he noted that Whitefield Academy, which is affiliated with Highview Baptist Church, has the authority to expel students who may go against its religious beliefs because of exemptions for faith-based schools in Louisville's Fairness Ordinance.
Still, Hartman noted that a rainbow does not solely represent LGBTQ movements but is also mentioned in the Bible's Book of Genesis as a symbol of God's covenant with Noah following the flood.
"So the idea that they would eject someone for the simple display of a rainbow is ludicrous," Hartman said.
Jacobson said he told the girl's family that the expulsion could instead be classified as a "voluntary withdrawal" on her record if she applies to other schools.
Alford said her daughter is attending a public school and moving on from Whitefield Academy, a place she had attended since sixth grade. Support from friends at her former school and some in the school community has been "overwhelming," Alford said.
"She's adjusting really well, but she also seems stressed and overwhelmed at times," Alford said. "I felt like (Whitefield Academy) had a positive impact on her, but I just feel like those religious beliefs they are imposing now are very judgmental. That's not what I wanted for her."
Follow Billy Kobin on Twitter: @billy_kobin.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Christian school expels girl for 'gay' rainbow cake, mom says