Anatomy Of A Fake News Story: The Rainbow Cake And The Christian School

Wow, what a coincidence!!!

The headlines:

  • NBC News: Christian school expels teen after rainbow sweater and
    cake were deemed ‘lifestyle violations’
  • Fox News: Kentucky student expelled from private Christian school
    over rainbow shirt and cake, mom claims
  • Courier Journal: Louisville Christian school expelled student over a
    rainbow cake, family says
  • BuzzFeed News: This Mom Is Claiming A Christian School Expelled Her
    Teen Daughter Over A Picture With A Rainbow Cake
  • NY Post:Teen expelled from Christian school after rainbow shirt,
    cake photo
  • Chicago Tribune: Girl expelled from Christian school after posing with
    rainbow cake
  • New York Daily News: Freshman expelled from school for wearing rainbow shirt
  • The Washington Post: “Christian school expels teen after she posed with rainbow birthday cake, mother says.”

All of these headlines are misleading and deceitful, and intentionally so. This combines several varieties of Fake News, including “Outright false stories” deliberately published to mislead, “Fake headlines and clickbait,” and “Incompetent reporting.”

The facts of the episode only incidentally involve a rainbow cake, and the incident in question was the culmination of an ongoing contractual violation, not the extreme homophobia that that the various stories represented it to be. The frequent use of “mom says” and “family says” were cover for deliberately incompetent reporting. The family was, to be blunt, lying, and the truth of the episode was readily available to anyone with the diligence and integrity to look for it.

The Post story was typical of media confirmation bias at work, and indeed was the one many other sources began with. Reporter Michael Brice-Saddler wrote that  Kimberly Alford bought a custom a cake to celebrate the 15th birthday of her daughter, Kayla Kenney.  Alford told the credulous reporter that she instructed the bakery to decorate a cake with bright colors that ‘pop,’ and by purest accident, the resulting rainbow design matched her daughter’s sweater that she just happened to be wearing though she is not gay. Mom took a picture of Kayla smiling next to the birthday cake, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

If anyone believes the story about the amazing rainbow coincidence, I have a bridge to sell them. Yet the Post reporter did, just as Post reporters chose to believe that a Catholic school boy in a MAGA cap was harassing and smirking at a helpless old Native American.

The Post story continued,

“Now Alford alleges the seemingly innocuous photo caused Kayla to be expelled from Whitefield Academy, a private Christian school in Louisville, where her daughter was a freshman. In an email to the family on Jan. 6, the academy’s head of school, Bruce Jacobson, wrote that Kayla’s enrollment was terminated, effective immediately, because of a social media post,” Saddler added. According to his report, Alford insisted that “her daughter’s matching rainbow cake and sweater were simply a coincidental aesthetic and not intended to mean anything more.”

Conservative columnist Rod Dreher exposed this narrative as the garbage it was. He begins with the letter the school sent to Alford  announcing the student’s  expulsion:

To the Parents of Kayla Kenney,

We are sorry to inform you that due to a continued breach of our school policies and expectations, Kayla is being dismissed from Whitefield Academy, effective today, January 6, 2020. Please see the attached letter which serves as the official notice.

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 (see the attached picture). Per our in-person meeting on October 17, 2019, 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, effective immediately.

Please contact the High School Secretary Lori Fryling with any questions regarding Kayla’s records and transcripts.

Thank you,

B. A. Jacobson, Ed.D, Ed.S

Wait, what meeting on October 17? The party was on December 30.  As Dreher discovered, the social media post was only the latest in a continuing stream of incidents that directly violated the agreement under which Kayla was accepted into the private school and committed to its unambiguous Code of Conduct. The school’s statement said:

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

“Whitefield Academy is a Christian-based school with a 43-year history of educating students in a learning environment informed by our shared Christian values. All parents who enroll their children in our private school know up front that we ask the students to adhere to a lifestyle informed by our Christian beliefs. There are numerous school options in our community for students who do not wish to attend a Christian-based school, and we wish our former student all the best as she finds a learning environment that is right for her.

“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.”

Here is part of the agreement that both parents and students are required to sign:

Dreher tracked down other social media posts by Kayla  that support the information he received that Kayla was actively and aggressively promoting pro-gay values and attitudes in the school and on social media, and thus directly violating the agreement and the school’s code. One series of Instagram posts announces her same sex relationship and documents its progress, and appears to reveal a lesbian sexual encounter:

Another shows her tossing a bible into the dryer:

The ethics issue here isn’t homophobia or even the common one discussed on Ethics Alarms regarding schools and employers punishing students or employees for their personal social media speech. Kayla didn’t do or write anything wrong in the abstract. I agree that the Whitefield Academy’s positions regarding homosexuality are retrograde, archaic and unjust, but as a private institution, it is completely their right to have  and maintain them, based as they are on sincere Christian beliefs. It is also Kayla’s right to be a pro-gay activist, unless she gains admission to a private school by promising not to.

The primary ethics violation here is that Kayla and her parents signed an agreement that laid out exactly what the conditions of her attending the school were, and then deliberately violated them, and did so over an extended period of time. Then, when both mother and child did so publicly after being warned that they were out of last chances, the family not only lied but set out to sic the mainstream media on the school.

The secondary ethics issue is that the news media allowed the girl and her family to succeed in their efforts, because of the news media’s near universal bias  against religious schools and religions, and journalism incompetence.

____________________________________

The safe link to use on Facebook posts: https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1219672572054458371

15 thoughts on “Anatomy Of A Fake News Story: The Rainbow Cake And The Christian School

  1. An acquaintance of mine once told me about a co-worker at White Castle who kept calling in. They were allowed ten absences from work before being terminated. After nine absences, she got sick and had to go to the hospital. When they fired her, she complained, “You’re firing me because I was in the hospital?”. Their response was, “No, because you had ten absences”.

    Even if we give Kayla the benefit of the doubt that the cake and sweater were completely coincidental and had nothing to do with gay rights (you believe that and I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you), she lost that credibility by her previous posts. It behooved her and her mother to be extra careful about her social media posts after that. They didn’t.

    Is it possible that she was just enrolled as a “Gotcha!” to see how much she could get away with before expulsion?

  2. Let’s ask the obvious. If she opposed the school’s clearly delineated policies, why did she enroll?

    Is this the equivalent of her and her family’s stroll into that bakery, knowing media bias would write articles likely to ruin the school’s reputation.

    I smell a rat.

    • To give her and the family the benefit of the doubt, the parents might have regarded the provisions about values unenforceable, like my examples of unethical contract terms designed to intimidate members and signees and fake them out of suing. The problem is that these items ARE enforceable.

      • That would seem doubtful. If they registered the daughter for this school, they must have known that the school was/is conservative and Christian – if they didn’t then they are magnificently obtuse, kind of like sticking one’s hand in a blender, turning it on and being shocked that the blades chopped off your fingers.

        There should be very little confusion what conservative Christian institutions think about abortion, gay rights, etc. They signed a code of conduct agreement that spells out what the school believes. Furthermore, I suspect the school has their values, mission statements, and other items celebrating conservative Christian values plastered all over their website, mailouts, brochures, course selections, etc.

        I bet this more like forcing the Christian baker to “bake me a gay wedding reception cake” then we realize. I suspect the parents thought they could “change” or challenge the school’s rules without consequence. Hence, promoting the misleading story lines: “Our precious daughter was done an unsolid because those meanies at that school didn’t like her Disney sweater or brightly colored cake!” Oops.

        I further suspect that a deep dive on their social media accounts would reveal that the family didn’t accept the school’s values, core beliefs, or religious instruction. Is it any wonder why the school had 9 meetings with her and her family and had them sign an agreement to abide by the school’s rules? Nine meetings. Not 1. Not 2. Not 3. Nine. They gave this family of cretins every chance to follow the rules and they just could not do it. I wonder why.

        What surprises is the school’s refusal to back down to the Mob. I may not share their beliefs but good on them for standing up for themselves and not issuing some milquetoast, meelymouthed “out of privacy concerns, we are not at liberty to discuss this matter” comment. Nope. Their response is: “Hey we have rules, you know the rules, broke the rules, and now have consequences for breaking the rules you knew you were breaking at the time you broke them. Here’s a list of other schools in the area. Have a nice day.”

        jvb

  3. I have heard of students being expelled for asinine interpretations of school rules.

    Much of the Zero tolerance bullshit we hear about comes not from asinine, zero-tolerance rules, but completely asinine, unreasonable interpretations of facially reasonable rules. The latter is even much worse than the former, for in the former, students could reasonably ascertain what is prohibited conduct, even if the prohibition itself is unwise or unfair, while in the latter case, students are subject to arbitrary punishment.

    This is clearly far from the case here.

    As for the rule itself, it is no more unethical than the Human Rights Campaign firing, or refusing to hire, a manager or spokesperson who made anti-gay slurs.

  4. A fifteen-year-old with an open, active, advertised sex life, homosexual or otherwise, belongs in child protective services, and her parents in prison. The school was wise to disentangle itself from that mess and should’ve acted sooner. I hope they filed a report with the police.

      • It’s weird that everyone overlooked it. I would’ve overlooked it too if today hadn’t fortuitously been the feast of St. Agnes. We’ve let the nudge-wink, kids-are-going-to-do-whatever-they-want-so-let’s-celebrate-their-perversity-and-spare-their-self-esteem mentality permeate into our minds. We’re corrupted from decades of slowly-escalating social subversion. It’s obvious this girl’s depravity is a status symbol for her mother, and she probably cultivated it in her own daughter for this purpose. There can be no more wretched a crime, but we were all, initially, only offended by her odious lie.

        We’re re-educating the wrong people. I’d take the most intolerable extent of stupid Puritanism over this fruitcakery every time. At least I could respect my stupid persecutors. The globohomo child-groomers deserve more physically-violent contempt than my mortal frame can produce. It takes a village, some say, but I think by now we’d need a whole Holy Roman Empire and a hard generation to raise the human race out of barbarism again. Civilization can’t survive this, given the very generous premise that it isn’t already long-dead.

        I always go apocalyptic. I should learn to play some other notes.

  5. They were extremely kind not to toss her for the whole Bible-in-a-dryer thing.
    They should have known right there that they had a narcissist on their hands who was going to grandstand, posture, and scheme at their expense.
    Giving her some time to possibly change for the better was an act of pure grace, and it came back to bite them, sadly.

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