Christian school pressures 'tomboy' to transfer

Family told they have no grounds for a lawsuit because school is private
Associated Press
Mar 29, 2014

Eight-year-old Sunnie Kahle likes to keep her hair short, wear boys' clothes, collect hunting knives and shoot her BB gun.

"She's a pure, 100 percent tomboy," said her great-grandfather Carroll Thompson, who along with his wife Doris adopted their granddaughter's child.

But to Timberlake Christian School administrators, the second-grader's boyish ways warranted an ultimatum: Start acting like a girl or find another school.

The Thompsons found another school, but they didn't go quietly. After being told by lawyers that they have no grounds for a lawsuit because Timberlake is a private school, the Thompsons have gone public with their complaints.

"I don't see nothing Christian about it," 66-year-old Carroll Thompson said in an interview at the family's house just outside Lynchburg, home of Liberty University, the Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Doris Thompson, who's 69, said she was stunned when she received a letter last month saying the school can deny enrollment to applicants for condoning "sexual immorality," homosexuality or alternative gender identity.

Principal Becky Bowman wrote that "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."

Doris Thompson said Sunnie knows she is a girl and has never, to her knowledge, wished she were a boy.

Other disputes over gender expression at school have made headlines recently, including a demand, later rescinded, that a 9-year-old North Carolina boy cease carrying a My Little Pony backpack to school. But that case and others involved public schools rather than private religious academies that are not subject to anti-discrimination laws.

After a television news report about the Thompsons created a social media frenzy, the school retained the legal arm of Liberty University to tell its side. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said there is more to the situation than the Thompsons are saying.

"This is not at all about how she is dressing or she is going through a phase," Staver said in a telephone interview.

However, he said confidentiality laws prevented him from being more specific and school officials would rather not try to rebut the Thompsons' allegations. Earl Prince, an administrator at the school, also declined to discuss what prompted Bowman's letter.

Doris Thompson said she is unaware of anything, other than Sunnie's appearance and tomboy ways, that would prompt the school's action. She said Sunnie made good grades, was well-behaved and got along with the other children. New classmates would sometimes ask if she were a boy or a girl, but she would answer and that would be the end of it, Thompson said.

Bowman acknowledged in her letter that the school's position doesn't stem from Sunnie's grades or "general cooperation with school rules."

Staver said school officials were dismayed that the Thompsons chose not to resolve the issue with them privately. He said school officials would like to have Sunnie back.

"The school has never called the girl immoral, has never evicted her and is willing to work with her," Staver said. "She is a precious little girl."

This year, a girl mistook Sunnie for a boy in the girls' restroom and reported it to a teacher, and two boys tried to drag Sunnie into the boys' restroom. Sunnie said the boys got in trouble, but she did too "for yelling down the hallway."

Sunnie, eager to break away from an interview and ride her bike, said she liked Timberlake better than the public school she is now attending.

"I had a lot of friends there," she said of the school she attended since age 3.

Doris Thompson said Sunnie would grow her hair so she could return to Timberlake, but her husband said that's "out of the question."

Sunnie's troubles at Timberlake began in pre-kindergarten after she cut her hair to donate it to a program that provides wigs for cancer patients, Doris Thompson said. Around then, she started wanting boys' clothes.

"A teacher told me I was the parent and I needed to control her, and if she didn't obey I needed to take her in the bathroom and whip her butt," Thompson said.

Rather than just dismiss the teacher's concerns, she asked the family doctor for advice. "He said, 'Leave that child alone!'" she said.

Afterward, Thompson said the teacher told her: "You need to find a Christian doctor."



If allowed, thinkagain would stone this poor child to death. For all we know she could turn out to be ALL WOMAN, grow up to get married, have children and be completely HETEROSEXUAL. Having short hair and wearing pants means NOTHING!!!!


Agreed! At least give her hormones a chance to kick in.


How is her clothing choice 'leaning towards homosexuality'? I wear jeans, does that make me gay? I'll even throw my hubsters tshirt on to wear to bed, am I secretly a lesbian now? Ridiculous, let that little girl do what makes her comfortable.


Oh crap, I have short hair too. Better head off to Fire Island now.




"This is not at all about how she is dressing or she is going through a phase…confidentiality laws prevented him from being more specific…"

Just look how many commentators suffer from lack of reading comprehension skills.


So the other reasons could be something that has NOTHING to do with sexuality or other UNGODLY reasons. You know nothing, just like the rest of us. There are no specifics. I did read the article. I read it here and I read it at other websites. I also know that CHRISTIAN schools teach NOTHING but the art of JUDGING others and how to drink more, sleep around more, cuss more, and confess on Sunday better (oh, sorry that confessing thing is the Catholics).


Great job with the all caps, they definitely fit with your whole online judgmental persona.


Because your religious rants and quoting isn't just as judgmental? You shouldn't be judging anybody you know nothing about. Especially on words printed in the media where fact checking is not their main priority.


Are you done judging me now?


It was not all caps. They were used on specific words. My only judgment is of you and your bible thumping. I am not sure you have an original thought in your head. Without your bible, you really have nothing to say.




Get that child out of there. If the school has a tax exempt religious basis, they are bound by federal anti-discrimination laws.


You shouldn’t judge!!!

Oh My Dear God, does it ever get old for you people???

Good thing that as a teacher I have the patience of Job. Otherwise, you maroons would all be wearing dunce caps.

OK, (deep breath) let’s try it one more time from a non-biblical perspective. (For all you godless liberals out there, maybe you’ll be able to grasp it, instead of focusing on your hatred for the Bible.)

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, to judge means “to discern, to distinguish, to form an opinion, to compare facts or ideas, and perceive their agreement or disagreement, and thus to distinguish truth from falsehood.” Therefore, when you say that your neighbor is a “good person,” you are passing a judgment (forming an opinion) just as much as when you say that the thief is a “bad person.”

If there were no judgment…

All the prisons would be empty and thieves, serial killers, drug dealers, rapists, and murderers would be loose in your neighborhood.

You could not discipline your children and teach them not to steal, lie, do drugs, or give in to peer pressure.

You should leave your children with anyone who wanted to be a baby-sitter. Don’t bother to check his/her background, because “thou shalt not judge.”

Most often, those who tell you “not to judge” them do so because they are either hiding something and want to continue doing it.


if you're a teacher, think, maroon is a color and moron is a negative description, per your first sentence. spell check is useful.


Or maybe you need to broaden your comedic literary horizon?


A term of derision often uttered by Bugs Bunny when referring to an interaction with a dopey adversary. It is a mispronunciation of the word "Moron". But thanks anyway.


thank you for that education. I had better things to do than watch cartoons so I missed that information.




hide something like catholic priests? LOL, sorry, had too.

As for "to judge" you are pulling information from a slanted source, without access to the true and all encompassing information with no way of ever getting that information to "distinguish truth from falsehood". Not that you would probably listen to information that goes against your already made up opinion and religion.

You are right though, you can judge and do whatever you want (you are limited to your religious teachings though), however it would be good to have a bit of an open mind, not keeping the head stuck in a book.

Being that you are a teacher scares me a bit, if you cannot go without quoting the bible and hating gays as much as you do, how do you handle gay students in your classes? Or are they younger than the puberty stage, because that is when it is "learned"?


thinkagain, wrong again, no hate here for the bible, just hate for you. We don't like bigots.


The only problem with this little girl is she is OBESE! That is a far bigger and much more unhealthy problem than being a tomboy.

If she were normal weight and had the same behavior she would not be made fun of. She is twice the normal weight for second grade, so she is probably bigger than the boys.

Little 8 or 9 year old, scrappy, athletic girls, that are not afraid of worms, and play in the mud are ADORABLE!


Okay, everybody, take a deep breath: This isn't about how the kid dresses, or how her hair is done. There are, according to the article, other factors, and I don't doubt that confidentiality is the legitimate reason school officials won't detail those factors.

We all know little girls who like to play with boys or engage in activities traditionally earmarked as being for boys. I'm personally just about as girly as they come, but I grew up as my father's oldest "son." By that, I mean I cleared brush with Daddy, I poured cement with Daddy, I watched football with Daddy, and I had a shot glass of beer when Daddy had a bottle on a hot summer day. (I also played a lot with boys, but that's because there were only two of us girls in our rural area.)

I didn't grow up to "choose" (don't get me started) homosexuality. I didn't grow up to want to be a man. I never did like dolls, but I did (and do) like make-up, jewelry, and ruffles. But growing up the way I did, I ALSO know how to pound in a nail without hitting my thumb. I can use a drill and a power saw. I can repair a plaster wall, replace a door knob, and even manage basic plumbing. All of that is because nobody insisted my parents spank me if I wouldn't wear dresses or play with Barbie dolls!

If the only thing "wrong" with this little girl is that she likes short hair (if you're female, you KNOW how much easier short hair is to take care of!) and to wear comfortable clothes (guys, not a word from ANY of you unless you've had to wear a push up bra and high heels all day), then the school is wrong and so is anybody else who's busy judging a book by its cover.

BUT...and this is a big one! BUT: If there are, indeed, other factors, any school claiming itself Christian is bound by conscience to teach and to live Biblically. If those "other factors" contradict that, then they've every right to kick the girl out. I suggest we forget about how she looks or how she plays, and wait to hear the REST of the story. It's THAT that will make the difference, and ONLY that that will offer any kind of justice for those directly involved.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Thank you.


VERY well said! I grew up in the garage with my brother and father. I can change the oil, brakes and other mechanical things. I too prefer comfortable clothes, but have always had long hair. I never owned one Barbie doll. I am just glad I grew up in a house without labels, with parents that allowed me to be who I am, not who society wanted me to be. I was allowed to choose my own path.


Sam, to that I might add that there are more than a few MAJOR religions whose doctrines speak strongly to appropriate garb based on gender. There are several orthodox Hebrew schools in Cleveland's eastern suburbs that do not allow girls to wear pants, and do we really have to remind people how the Muslims feel about this? It's their school, their beliefs, and they have the right to set their own standards, REGARDLESS of what we think.


Unbelievable! I was a tomboy growing up, hung out with all the boys and did boy stuff when I was younger. I know many little girls in Catholic schools and private and public that are the same way, until they reach 12-13 yrs old when they flower and start thinking bout their looks, dates..etc, have more female friends. They can still be tomboys and dress up for occasions. This is so un- Christian of this school. Or of any school. Leave the kid alone is exactly what I would say.


I have my own perspectives on what it means to be a Christian. Each and every one else also have their very own very finite definitions as well. NO (zero) people will agree to ALL those specifics if they we asked about them. No two pastors or preachers will even agree across all minute concepts of "Christianity".
With that being said....
This school has obviously "gone too far" with its dictums of "their school's" adherence. In my opinion...Jesus would have NOT ostracised this little girl. Sadly, too many self-professed Christians have also taken Jesus' teachings and turned, twisted and contorted them into a faith-based knife of segregation that would appall Jesus. They are only attempting to force a VERY strict doctrine that they and they alone have manifested with their interpretations of "Christianity". It's a boarder-line cult with propaganda-filled messages rather than a religion and puts a sour name on true Christians.


WOW, it only took two paragraphs for you to COMPLETELY contradict yourself.


I think that Jesus would be embarrassed by schools like this one.


Given what you've said about Christianity and religion in the past, I'm sure all of Christianity eagerly awaits your opinion on Jesus before making any decisions.