Parents sue school after claiming daughter was expelled over birthday cake: 'I just want to defend her'

A Kentucky family who claims their daughter was expelled over the design of her birthday cake is now suing her former school.

The lawsuit, filed last Thursday, alleges that 15-year-old Kayla Kenney was kicked out of her Christian high school, "because they believed [she] was gay," NBC News reports.

Kayla's parents originally said that the school, Whitfield Academy, had made their decision after obtaining a photo of the teenager celebrating her birthday with a rainbow-colored cake while wearing a similarly colorful sweater. While the rainbow has long been a symbol of LGBTQIA+ pride, Kayla's mother, Kimberly Alford, said her daughter is not gay and that the cake was simply chosen because it looked nice.

Alford shared the photo on Dec. 30, and a week later she received an email saying her daughter had been expelled.

"The [school] 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," the letter, obtained by NBC News, read.

Alford told WAVE-TV at the time that the news had been "devastating" her family, with Kayla being forced to switch schools over judgments about her "perceived sexuality." Now Alford and Kayla's father, Mike Kenney, are channeling those frustrations into a lawsuit against the school.

"Essentially, the school expelled [Kayla] because they believed that [shhe] was gay," the suit states. "In so doing, Whitefield invaded [Kayla's] privacy, defamed [her] breached its contract with [her] parents ... in 2020, it is unbelievable that conversations like this one are still occurring — and that lawsuits like this one are still necessary."

Whitfield has defended its decision by pointing to prior disciplinary issues, including an instance in the fall during which Kayla was placed on probation for "two years of continuous violations of our student code of conduct."

"In the fall, we met with [Kayla] 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," the school said in a statement to Fox News.

Alford has disputed that claim, though, saying that all of the school's disciplinary actions were related to administrators believing Kayla was gay — something that, according to the Whitefield handbook, would not be "in harmony" with its values. For example, Alford said that last semester, a school counselor gave Kayla the book, "Gay Girl, Good God." The book was written by Jackie Hill Perry, who has stated that God stopped her from being gay.

Alford told NBC News that Kayla was treated "unjustly" and said the lawsuit is about standing up for her daughter and preventing other students from experiencing something similar.

"I just want to defend her in a graceful way. I want to stand up for my child," she said. "Just treat people with kindness and love, and don’t be judgmental."