Girl Gets Expelled From School After Posting An Innocent Photo Online

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.

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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.

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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.

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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.

Mashed / YouTube

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.

First Coast News / YouTube

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.

Whitefield Academy / YouTube

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.

William Murphy / Flickr

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.”

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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 have people in the community questioning the academy’s authority, especially when it comes to their rules that extend off campus.

Whitefield Academy / YouTube

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.”

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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.”

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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…

Neil Rosekrans / YouTube

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.

GRADDky / YouTube

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.

Sherlock Hohms / YouTube

‘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.”

Whitefield Academy / YouTube

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…

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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.

Whitefield Academy / YouTube

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.”

First Coast News / YouTube

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”.

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

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.

Kimberly Alford / Facebook

Online Identities

These days, it’s fairly common for teens to reflexively post their entire lives online, as Kayla herself knew. Whether through pictures, posts, or videos, the documenting every moment of the day is pretty standard fare. Austin and Aaron Rhodes were no exception.

Aaron Rhodes

Vlogging Together

The twins were avid vloggers. They would film each adventure, edit it into a few-minute-long clip, and then post it on Youtube. Their videos were fun to watch, and they liked letting people in on their lives. But, they had a secret they were keeping form their audience and their dad.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Supportive Mom

The only person who knew their secret, besides each other, was their mom. The family agreed it was best to keep the truth from their father until they were ready to open up to him. The truth is, they were terrified of losing their dad.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Hiding in Plain Sight

So, they went on with their lives, hiding their true selves. It wasn’t until they started their Youtube channel that they knew something had to change. As Vloggers, they couldn’t fully share information about themselves like they wanted to because they didn’t want their dad to find out.

Call with Dad

To alleviate the pressure, they made the decision to tell their father the truth. In true vlogger fashion, they planned to film the whole thing. No matter how much they prepared themselves to make the call, they didn’t know how he’d react. Would he be disappointed? Accepting?

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Always Close

See, the brothers had always been insanely close. Years before they started their channel, they were hanging out after work and Aaron turned to his brother and dropped a bomb. “I’m gay,” he said simply. Austin couldn’t believe it.

rhodesaustin / Instagram

The Same Way

That was because he, too, had a secret. “I’m the same way,” he responded. This shared experience brought them closer than ever, but a dark cloud loomed over the teens. After years, it was finally time to let the world — and their father — in on the truth.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Right to the Camera

Soon, a video titled “Twins Come Out to Dad” appeared on screens across the world, and it began with Austin and Aaron talking to the camera. “We want to come back as authentic as possible, and we just want to give you guys everything and say everything that we want to say,” Aaron began.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Dialing

“I’m gay,” Aaron said. Austin then follows that up by saying, “And I’m gay, too.” The next part of the video would be what everyone was waiting for. It was time for the boys to call their dad. They feared his reaction would be devastating.

NBC Los Angeles

Emotional Pause

In the video, the phone rings and the camera captures the nervous energy of both brothers. When their dad answers, there is an emotional pause. Austin and Aaron are holding back tears and are lost for words.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Tears Flow

“I mean, I don’t really know how else to put it. Uh, I’m gay, and, um, Austin is, too. We just wanted to, like, call and tell you,” Austin says. The admission hangs in the air as both boys fall into quiet sobs and wait for their father to respond.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Dad’s Reaction

After a pause, Mr. Rhodes says “Okay.” Austin continued anxiously, saying “I just don’t want you to, like, not love us or anything like that.” He couldn’t even finish his sentence before his father interrupted.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Live Your Lives

“Oh stop it,” Mr. Rhodes said. “You know I love you both. That will never change. You’ve gotta live your lives. You’ve gotta do what you gotta do.” This leads to visible relief from both brothers. Austin says he doesn’t want this to change their “normal” relationship.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

Fatherly Encouragement

“You are normal. What do you mean?” His father continued, “You’re living your lives, and that’s all you can do in life. Just live it.” The heartwarming moment led to over 27 million views on their video. But the real reward was not in views.

Aaron Rhodes / Youtube

A Weight Lifted

“I literally feel like ten million pounds has, like, been lifted off my shoulders,” explained Aaron after they hung up with their father. After the video went viral, it got the attention of one very famous talk show host.

Austin Rhodes

Ellen’s Guests

Before they knew it, Austin, Aaron and their father were sitting on the couch opposite Ellen DeGeneres. She was in awe of Mr. Rhodes and his reaction. She commented that more dads should be like him, accepting and loving their children no matter what.

TheEllenShow / Youtube

Doubling Down

Austin and Aaron’s father talked about how their relationship has benefited saying, “they can come to me with anything in their lives. I’m very proud of my boys.” Before they left, the famously generous host had a surprise for the boys.

TheEllenShow / Youtube

Big Surprise

The brothers were awarded a $10,000 check to help them get their lives started and pursue their dreams. Everyone was in tears by the end of the episode.

TheEllenShow / Youtube