% Girl Gets Expelled From School After Posting An Innocent Photo Online

 

When the average person thinks of someone being expelled, they likely picture a juvenile delinquent, someone who constantly misbehaves and possibly even causes danger to themselves or their peers. But sometimes, the reasons for kicking students out of school are far more obscure. When one young Kentuckian was expelled from her high school after posting an innocent photo online, it left many people stunned, and her friends and family desperately fighting for answers.

Average Girl

Up until recently, Kayla Kenney was your average 15-year-old girl, living in Louisville, Kentucky, and attending Whitefield Academy — a local private high school — with her friends.

Tight-Knit Family

Kayla was happy. She had an active social life, loved spending time with her tight-knit family, and participated in many wholesome activities including her lifelong passion for athletics.

Upcoming Birthday

Kayla had a birthday coming up, one she was very excited to celebrate. However, what was supposed to be a celebratory event filled with food, fun, friends, and family, brought one of the most harrowing experiences of her young life.

Bake Me A Cake

In preparation for her big day, Kayla requested a cake. She asked the bakers to make one that included frosting in "assorted colors," and when she received the festive confection, she was very pleased with the result.

An Innocent Photo?

However, after the partying was over, Kayla's mother posted a picture of the smiling teen, wearing a rainbow sweater and posing next to the cake on Facebook. The backlash would be swift and severe.

Blindsided

Soon after, the family received notice from Dr. Bruce Jacobson, head of the school, that Kayla was being expelled. They were completely blindsided. Kayla was a generally good student and hardly got into trouble.

Symbolism

They quickly realized that the reason Kayla was being made to leave the school that she loved so much was because administrators, including Jacobson, believed the cake was representative of LGBTQ pride.

Just A Sweater

Both Kayla and her mother denied this, with mom Kimberly saying, “I just feel like it’s a label [school officials] have put on her. Just because I’m wearing a rainbow doesn’t mean I’m gay."

Controversial Rules

In fact, the code of conduct at Whitefield Academy and the rules contained in it are very strict and controversial in general. Some of them are honestly difficult to fathom.

The Right To Expel

Among other things, the school reserves the right to expel students if their “home environment is not in harmony with the school’s doctrinal belief in the centrality of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture and Biblical lifestyle.”

Specific Guidelines

While the former could be interpreted in many different ways, the guidelines go on to state specific things they believe to be in violation of this statute. Among these are "homosexual orientation" and "sexual immorality."

Standing Their Ground

For its part, the academy has not relented in defending their decision to kick Kayla out, in part saying that their rules are in line with Kentucky law, and not unlike the guidelines at similar religious institutions...

History Of Violations

The school also claims steadfastly that the picture was not the sole reason for Kayla's abrupt expulsion, calling these reports "inaccurate" and stating that Kayla had a long history of violating their strict rules.

Big Oops

Among the infractions that Jacobson is referring to include an event that occurred in October, when Juul pods were found in the student's backpack. However Kayla's mother insisted that since then, there have been no incidents of misbehavior.

'Lifestyle Violations'

In any case, the school said the birthday photo in question “demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs,” and went on to state that it constituted “lifestyle violations."

Forced Out

Ultimately, Kayla lost her battle for justice and was forced to leave the school that she had called home for the past two years. However, there was one silver lining...

Saving Grace

Rather than being listed as an expulsion, the official account states that Kayla's leaving was a "voluntary departure" — a good thing, because this way it won't go down on her permanent record.

Considering The Circumstances

As for Kayla's mental state, her mother Kimberly reports that she is adjusting well, as she is a very resilient young woman, but that understandably she also "seems stressed and overwhelmed at times."

Judgmental Beliefs

Kimberly also had some choice words for Whitefield Academy itself. "I just feel like those religious beliefs they are imposing now are very judgmental,” she reflected. “That’s not what I wanted for her".

Not Backing Down

Kimberly and Kayla have decided to proceed with a lawsuit against the school for violating its own disciplinary code, but Whitefield Academy isn't backing down. But Kayla's not alone in this fight.

Tragic Turn

Image: NBC News

See, Kayla's story is a tragic one, but unfortunately some cases have been even more heartbreaking in their magnitude. One teen named Seth Owen has a similar story that took a much more tragic turn.

Beneath The Surface

Growing up in Florida, Seth seemed like a model son and student. Below the surface, however, his personal life was far from perfect; in fact, it was teetering on the verge of collapse.

Lofty Goals

Image: Speak Out

Things were always great in the classroom, however. Ever since he was a little boy, Seth made sure to study hard. He was going to do whatever it took to attend a good college.

Always Studying

“I was the nerd in fifth grade who walked around recess talking about how I wanted to be an astronaut,” Owen said. “I was always in a textbook, always in the library, always reading something.”

Unlocking The Phone

But everything changed one evening during high school. While Owen was busy putting the finishing touches on a homework assignment, his dad opened up the teen's phone. He found something shocking on the device.

Questions

Image: NBC News

Owen's father found some pictures and had immediate questions. First, he wanted to know how his son, who was a successful student athlete, was doing. Then, he revealed what photo he'd found on his son's phone.

Damning Photos

“He found a damning photograph of me and another guy," Owen remembered. "Nothing inappropriate, but it clearly indicated that I was gay.” That caused a big problem for his parents.

Fixing The 'Problem'

Owen's parents were strict Southern Baptists and unwilling to accept his sexuality. Rather than supporting their son, they saw him as a problem; they were going to try to fix it.

Awkward Situation

They started sending the teenager to a Christian counselor, hoping that would help. "It was definitely awkward conversion therapy where they tried encouraging stereotypical masculine tasks and things like that,” Owen remembered.

Must Attend Church

After a few months, Owen stopped visiting the counselor. His parents were unwilling to relent on one other decision, however. Their son still needed to attend church, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Worship Rules

Given the congregation's views about sexuality, Owen didn't feel comfortable attending services. He asked to pray at another church, but his parents refused. If he didn't want to worship with them, he would have to move out.

Left With No Choice

Seth didn't want to leave, but he couldn't deny who he truly was. With a heavy heart, the teenager packed his bags and headed for the door; from that day forward, he would fend for himself.

College Acceptance

The upheaval didn't change his academic performance, however. Despite spending nights on his friends' couches, the teen was still accepted into Georgetown University. His college dream was finally coming true.

There Must Be A Mistake...

A few weeks after leaving home, Owen received his admissions packet from the school. When he opened it and poured over the paperwork, though, his heart dropped. There must have been a mistake.

No Possible Way

When Georgetown calculated Owen's financial aid package, they factored in his parents' income. Since he was now on his own, there was no way the teen could afford his tuition payments.

Losing Grip

Understandably, Seth was crushed. He had spent his entire life working towards a college acceptance — and thought he had received it — only to lose his grip on the opportunity at the last second.

Brainstorming

One of his teachers, Jane Martin, realized that Owen was struggling, even if he didn't want to admit it. She pulled a few of her colleagues together, and they tried to set things right.

Reaching Out To The Internet

Martin set up a GoFundMe page hoping to pay her student's tuition. "I know the goal seems unrealistic and the circumstances aren’t ideal, but I also know communities can make the impossible possible,” she wrote.

Important Realizations

Before anyone realized what was happening, the page had raised over $100,000. Not only could Seth attend Georgetown, but he came to understand something even more important: people cared about him.

Community Support

Image: NBC News

"He has had so much support,” Martin said. “I'm just excited for him to have this community literally come around and put all of our arms together and bring him up and raise him up.”

Inspiring Words

By sharing his story, Owen hoped to inspire other teens to love themselves, no matter what. "I would tell that sophomore kid to hold their head high, roll their shoulders back and be exactly who they are,” he said.

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