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REACT: School warns girl to stop looking, acting like a boy

LYCHBURG, Va. (WSET/WTVR) – The family of a Virginia girl has accused her school of discriminating against the child because of her “boyish” look and behavior. Eight-year-old Sunnie Kahle’s grandparents took her out of Timberlake Christian School (TCS) in Lynchburg after they received a letter from the principal.

“You’re probably aware that Timberlake Christian School is a religious, bible-believing institution providing education in a distinctly Christian environment,” Sunnie’s grandmother Doris Thompson read from the principal’s letter.

The letter further explained other students were confused about whether Sunnie was a boy or a girl. It also stated school administrators can refuse enrollment for condoning sexual immorality, practicing a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.

“We believe that unless Sunnie, as well as her family, clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education,” principal Becky Bowman wrote.

“How do you tell a child when she wants to wear pants and shirt, and go out and play in the mud and so forth, how do you tell her, no you can’t?” Doris Thompson asked. “You’ve got to wear a pink bow in your hair, and you’ve got to let your hair grow out long, how do you do that? I can’t do that.”

A TCS administrator, who wished to remain anonymous, said the problem with Sunnie went “far beyond her hair length.” The administrator said
Sunnie is a good student, but “things disturbed the classroom environment.”

“How do you label a child, eight years old, or discriminate against an eight year old child?” Sunnie’s grandfather Carroll Thompson
asked.

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26 comments

  • Kathy Walker

    People just need to leave well enough alone. What’s wrong with collecting those items. It was OK to grow up as a tom boy but now a days u r scrutinize for everything u do. If she wants a short haircut let her have it. She knows who she is at and early age. Wish I was more like her. Let her be and grow up. As most people would say maybe its just a phase she is going through. But for the school to kick her out cause they think she might make others uncomfortable she is only 8 years old. The school should b ashamed of treating/bullying her as they have. What king of role model are they send in to others.

  • Cindy

    Unbelievable! God loves people and He doesn’t discriminate! Leave that little girl alone! This is NOT the Christian way! What is the definition of ‘girlie’? I don’t think that term is in the Bible!

  • E Marshall Buckles

    OK, objectively speaking here, the family needs to look at the contract/agreements they signed when they enrolled the child. I don’t know, however, I would guess that they probably signed an agreement that they would abide by whatever rules were stated and accept whatever agreeed upon reasonable disciplinary action might be taken as stated. If they did, then, yes, the school CAN exclude the child if the child is not obeying the rules. This is a PRIVATE school which, I would assume, receives no public funds so they have a lot more that they can do, to discipline, than would a public school as long as it is stated in the contract. Also, a key statement here: ” A TCS administrator…said the problem with Sunnie went “far beyond her hair length.” The administrator said “Sunnie is a good student, but “things disturbed the classroom environment.” Looks like something else may have been going on in addition to the clothing issue. This sort of thing happens at private secular schools as well as at private religious schools at times. You don’t follow the specified rules, don’t behave as they wish you to behave, they can expell you. Don’t like it? Then don’t go to a private secular or private religious school. However, even the public schools still have at least some standards of behavior. At this point, options apparently are start following the rules or go to public school or home school.

    • Steve Wilson

      You speak like a soulless lawyer! You’re missing the point. This lone child is being bullied by so-called adults, because they can’t or won’t deal with the other problem, which is obviously driving this exchange.

      • E Marshall Buckles

        Hi, Steve, “soulless lawyer” here (just kidding, I am not a lawyer). Seriously, If this precious child (and she is precious in God’s sight) goes to public school – as apparently she has been – she is likely to get flack from other kids about her behavior (not to mention this huge, overblown story in the news affecting her) and even public schools have rules and regulations about behavior and appearance these days. Also, based on the grandparents having custody of the girl, looks like this may be a child protective services case and psychological issues involved. I have read many comments here and elsewhere about this and it appears, if all the allegations are true, that the school was willing to work with them but allegedly the grandparents pulled her out which makes me wonder what was up with them. So far no mention of the father and how he feels about all this. There was an allegation that the mother may have been abusive but no statement from her so far. Also, for children and young people in general, if they don’t learn certain basic manners and standards of behavior and dress now, while they are young, when will they learn them? How long do you think an Army, Air Force or Marine Drill Sergeant would let some recruit dress at their option? How long do you think that some employer, who requires uniforms or a certain standard of business dress will tolerate someone dressing at their own option? If someone goes before a Virginia or a Fedeal Judge, on a charge, and tells the Judge to “go to hell, I’ll do whatever I want to do”, how long do you think that person will stay out of jail? Based on all I have been reading, I think that this little girl in question would have been better of remaining where she was (evidently the school was willing if she would just wear the appropriate uniform clothing – which could have included slacks, so it was said) and behave hereself appropriately in class (it was said that they were working on that with her), but, no, she was taken out and taken to public school so guess we’ll see how well the public schools deal with this. Only we probably WON’T hear about it because the private school was a Christian school and fair game for all those who want to cast stones but the public schools deal – oftentimes severely – with issues like this every day and you don’t hear about it unless some sort of weapon was involved. By the way, I know of one non-Christian religion which is way more severe in it’s dress codes than Christians yet nobody is critical of them for that. Hmmm, might be because, unlike Christians, some members of this other religion are likely to show up with a bomb or a pistol or sword and take revenge for negative comments against them.

  • Amy

    My child received the same treatment from a private Christian daycare here in Richmond. Our son attended this daycae from age 10 months through 4 years and was a model student. His only flaw was that he was too feminine for the Childcare’s liking. The Pastor from the Church attached to the daycare actually sat down with my husband and I and spat out quotes from the Bible trying to convince us that we were bad parents and that our child was somehow an abomination. This same school allowed another child to physically abuse and bully various children at the school for years and even allowed him to stay after he threatened to take an axe to the school and kill everyone. They allowed this child to stay until one day he pushed my child and others to the ground and kicked them in their sides so hard my son had bruises. And only after I threatened the school did they remove him. My children pray to God every night and are loving and generous to others. How do I explain to my child why I had to tear him away from all his friends and teachers he loved and knew for over 4 years because he is not welcome there anymore? We were told by the Pastor to find one of those daycares that take sinners like gays and lesbians. I could not believe the words coming from this man’s mouth and to this day I still shudder to think that there are people like that in this world that argue they preach the word of God but instead preach hate. We are talking about innocent children here. God does not make mistakes and he made these beautiful children. The school has the right to do as they please but we as people have the right to speak out against such evil practices. I am a Christian and I would never reject a child or another person for just being themselves. I just pray this beautiful child in the story has not been damaged by the school’s actions. I applaud her parents for standing by her and by doing so they are showing their child that they love her no matter what. For Sunni’s parents, I know from experience that it is not easy to face ridicule and rejection but please know you are not alone. Your child is lucky to have you.

  • concerned citizen

    it’s the schools decision…. they have the right to do this. Let the kid go somewhere else to school, problem solved

  • Jimmy

    So to be a girl you have to have long hair and wear dresses? When God made her a girl he made her naked and with short hair. What you wear or how you look does not make you a certain gender. My youngest daughter is 13 and she is just now starting to care about looking more feminine. She was always boyish in manner but still 100% female. If my daughters school treated her this way i would not want her going to that school. They would not have to throw her out for i would take her out and put her into a school, christian or not, that would look at her as a person and not a fashion statement!

  • athynz

    I’ll guess heterosexual. What, just because she has short hair and wears tee shirts means she’s going to be homosexual? That is thinking as sloppy as the thinking of the school’s administration.

  • Debbie

    If the school is so concerned, they should have uniforms. And if they are Christians they need to open their hearts. WWJD

    • Belsma

      I had a uniform (plaid skirt, white shirt and knee high socks) in elementary school and short hair. How confusing was that for the other children? Oh no! :)

  • Belsma

    Good grief. I would not want my child in that school. My daughter wears jeans, t-shirts and although has long hair has it up in a sloppy bun most of the time. She burps and farts and sometimes acts like a typical boy would, many girls act like. Who cares? As long as they are good kids and getting the job done in school. Where is they bible verse for that? Some people have way too much time and energy.

  • Joe

    Private school, their rules comply or leave. Just as the girl can look as boyish as she wants, the private school can say no all they want. Deal with it and move on. Everyone wants life to be cookie cutter, no kid should ever have to deal with anything unpleasant if they do then they are being bullied. That ain’t life and philosophy won’t prepare them for the real world.

    • Steve Wilson

      Joe, the dress code was a Red Herring. The REAL issue here, which I have gathered from other sources, is that this poor child was being bullied because of the way she looked. The teachers and Principal were either unable or unwilling to stop this bullying. I would wager, the little brats were from wealthy families, and the school administration didn’t want to punish the real culprits, for fear of losing the almighty dollar. These cowardly individuals didn’t want to stand up for what’s right, and for that they should be damned!

  • C.M.

    I wore plaid skirts. The shirts were white or light blue, and the pants were navy — all 3 the same colors as the boys. When I first got my hair cut, it was cut from waistlength to almost as short as hers, but mine is curly. Nobody asked if I was male or female.
    I don’t think this is a true issue of gender identification. Granted I have NO doubt there were bullies teasing her because she wants shorter hair, and is a tomboy, etc. Kids can be real jerks! As much as I LOVE children..they are CRUEL, ESPECIALLY girls!! I was a preschool teacher in a pvt school. I have 3 children — my oldest 2 went K-8 in pvt catholic. I’m the oldest of 4, and 3 of us were girls…me being the only “girly” one. My sisters were tomboys.
    Out of all the comments I’ve read tonight, Steve NAILED IT in my opinion.

  • DENISE

    The fact is it don’t matter who she is going to be when she gets older, and your just as bad as the school… It’s how she is being bullied BY ADULTS like you…. GROW UP for god sakes…. where are your morals and values???

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