LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE/CNN) - It was a happy moment when high school freshman Kayla Kenney celebrated her 15th birthday with her family at a restaurant.
Her rainbow top and a colorful birthday cake were captured in a photo her mother Kimberly Alford later shared on social media.
“She was happy; she looked beautiful,” Alford said. “You know, of course as a mom, I took her picture of her blowing out her candles and I posted that on my Facebook page."
But the post was shared with staff at Kayla’s school, and apparently, it was the last straw for Whitefield Academy. A few days later, Kimberly was contacted by Head of School, Dr. Bruce Jacobson.
“It was an email expelling Kayla from Whitefield immediately due to a post on social media,” Alford said. “I feel judged, she feels judged, just very devastating for us.”
The private school claims the picture is the latest in two years’ worth of “lifestyle violations.” In the email, Dr. Jacobson said the picture “demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs."
The code of conduct does address sexual orientation and says if a student’s off-campus behavior isn’t in line with the school’s beliefs, that student can be disciplined. But Alford said she wants to know how the shirt brought them to that conclusion.
“She loves to laugh and dance and that’s just her,” Alford said. “There was nothing intended by that and even when I went back and got the receipt from the bakery, it didn’t say anything about representation, it just said assorted colors.”
Alford filed an appeal against the expulsion. She said the school refused to meet with her, but agreed to change the expulsion to a voluntary withdrawal so it’s not on Kayla’s record anymore. Still, Alford said she fears feeling this level of judgment could have a permanent impact on her child.
“You know we teach our kids what would Jesus do," Alford said. "What would he do here?”
Alford has now enrolled her daughter in public school. After nearly four years making friends and settling in at Whitefield Academy, it has been a tough transition, but she said the teenager is getting a lot of support.
The Kentucky school is pushing back -- calling it "inaccurate" that the student was expelled solely for the social media post.
The school released a statement saying in part: "It is unfortunate that the 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.”