The conservative Liberty Counsel made vague allusions to “sensitive” restroom use issues to defend a Christian school’s decision to bar an 8-year-old girl over her tomboy looks.
Timberlake Christian School notified Sunnie Kahle and her great-grandparents that she cannot return because her boyish appearance contradicts a “biblical lifestyle.”
“We believe that unless Sunnie and 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,” the school’s principal wrote in a letter.
Sunnie wears her hair short, collects baseballs and knives, and prefers to wear jeans and T-shirts, said her great-grandmother and legal guardian.
But the nonprofit legal organization defended the Forest, Virginia, private school, claiming media accounts had inaccurately described administrators’ decision to refuse the girl enrollment next year.
“This matter is far beyond a simple ‘hairstyle and tomboy issue’ as inaccurately portrayed,” the school said in a statement released through Liberty Counsel. “It is not about that at all. At no time did the Church or the School state or imply that S.K. was sexually immoral or the like.”
School officials said in the statement they were limited in what information they could publicly disclose but implied there had been complaints about Sunnie’s presence in public restrooms.
“When elementary children and their parents or guardians express concerns regarding use of the restroom and other matters arising from the sensitive issues here,” officials said, “the School has a duty to address those concerns and to ensure that all interests are heard and protected in accordance with the Christian mission of the School.”
The Virginia-based Liberty Counsel has actively fought laws or policies allowing transgender students to use the restroom of their professed gender.
WDBJ-TV reported that parents complained to the school after their children said Sunnie had expressed an interest in gender reassignment surgery and a desire to use the boys’ restroom.
Sunnie’s great-grandmother said the girl was too young to understand sexuality or gender issues, but added that she’d support her no matter what.
“If my child grows up to be homosexual or transgendered, I will love her that much more,” said Doris Thompson.
The school noted in its letter to Thompson and her great-granddaughter that students who did not know Sunnie were confused whether she was a boy or girl, and officials said they understood was undergoing counseling about her gender identity.
“On those occasions in which the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home is counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student,” the school said. “This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity (or) promoting such practices.”
Sunnie has withdrawn from Timberlake and enrolled in a public school, but the girl wishes things could have worked out differently.
“I should just be able to be me and not let them worry about it,” Sunnie said.
Watch this video report posted online by WDBJ-TV: