The family of a 15-year-old in Louisville, Kentucky, is suing the teen’s former private school for expelling her after seeing a photo showing her celebrating her birthday with a rainbow sweater and rainbow birthday cake.
The parents of Kayla Kenney are suing private Christian school Whitefield Academy for “breach of contract, emotional distress, and defamation.”
Georgia Connally, the attorney who filed the lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court, told local news station WDRB, “They made an assumption about a child’s sexual identity based on a birthday cake and a sweatshirt.”
Connally shares that, while Kayla identifies as LGBTQ, she wasn’t openly gay at the time of the expulsion.
But, Connally notes the lawsuit isn’t about LGBTQ discrimination.
“This lawsuit is about whether or not (the school) followed their own rules when they chose to expel Kayla, and they didn’t,” she said. “They skipped a whole bunch of (disciplinary) steps and went straight to plan Z, in my book, which is expelling a 15-year-old based on a photo.”
The letter sent to Kayla’s parents informing them of the expulsion read, in part, “The administration has been made aware of a recent picture posted on social which demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs.”
The school went on to state, “We made it clear that any promotion, celebration or any other actions and attitudes that are counter to Whitefield’s philosophy would not be tolerated.”
Kayla reportedly filed an appeal asking to meet with the school administrators, but they declined the request.
Once the story attracted national attention, the school issued a statement to the press saying Kayla had previous student violations that were part of the decision to expel her from school.
“Inaccurate media reports are circling stating that the student in question was expelled from our school solely for a social media post,” the statement read. “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.”
Connally takes issue with the school addressing the conflict with the media which, by her reading, not only outed the teen but constitutes breach of contract.
The lawyer notes that while the school is a private, religious entity, “There’s no religious exception for defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
“If those things were done, then they’re just as liable as a public entity would be,” she added.
Whitefield Academy has not responded to calls or emails about the lawsuit.
Here’s the initial report about the expulsion from the local CBS News affiliate: