8-year-old girl pushed out of US Christian school for being a tomboy?

Published 31 March 2014

Sunnie Kahle is not the kind of 8-year-old girl who wears a tiara in her hair and plays with Barbie dolls. Instead her toys of choice are BB guns and she collects hunting knives. She also keeps her hair cut short and wears boys' clothes.

"She's a pure, 100 per cent tomboy," said her great-grandfather Carroll Thompson. Together he and his wife Doris Thompson have decided to adopt their grandaughter's child.  

But not everyone accepts the second-grader's image like her great-grandparents do. Timberlake Christian Academy administrators felt Sunnie's image wasn't feminine enough so they issued a warning: Stop acting like a boy or find another school.

Sunnie was transferred to another school, but her family refused to let the Virginia-based Timberlake Christian Academy get away with what they believe is discrimination. The Thompsons were told by lawyers that they could not file a lawsuit against the Academy because it is a private institution, so instead they've taken their fight to the public. 

In a CBS news report last week, the 66-year-old great-grandfather expressed his disappointment in the Christian school. "I don't see nothing Christian about it," he said. Doris, 69, was shocked when a letter from the principal arrived at their Lynchburg, Virginia home last month. 

"We believe that unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand that God has made her female and [that] 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. 

Yet, according to Doris, Sunnie knows that she is a girl and she's never desired otherwise. The great-grandmother also mentioned that Sunnie gets goods grades and gets along very well with peers and teachers. 

In a television interview, a legal representative of the school, Mat Staver said the school's issue with Sunnie had nothing to do with the way she dressed, and that confidentiality laws prevented him from going into further detail. Staver said school officials would have preferred for the family to handle the issue privately and would have liked to have Sunnie back.

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