- 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,
- Chicago Tribune: Girl expelled from Christian school after posing with
- 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.
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