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Other disputes over gender expression at school have made headlines recently, including a demand, later rescinded, that a 9-year-old North Carolina boy cease carrying a My Little Pony backpack to school.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."


yea right

wow what narrow mindedness..and all for being a "tomboy" no better than westboro church..they all will burn for eternaty

Dr. Information

Pull it your bible and read, that's not how it works.


For several decades throughout the mid-20th century, the state of Virginia authorized compulsory sterilization of the mentally retarded for the purpose of eugenics. The operations were carried out at the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, now known as the Central Virginia Training School, located just outside Lynchburg in Madison Heights. An estimated 8,300 Virginians were sterilized and relocated to Lynchburg, known as a "dumping ground" of sorts for the feeble-minded, poor, blind, epilectic, and those otherwise seen as genetically "unfit".[11]
Sterilizations were carried out for 35 years until 1972, when operations were finally halted. Later in the late 1970s, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Virginia on behalf of the sterilization victims. As a result of this suit, the victims received formal apologies and counseling if they chose. Requests to grant the victims reverse sterilization operations were denied.


I've been to Lynchburg.
The name says it all.
Piece of crap town for sure.
jerry fall will is one of the most evil charlatins to ever walk the face of planet earth!
The great grandparents should be locked up for life for sending a child to such a soul-draining school.
I went to katholeek school and it was an extremely messed up experience.


' 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." '

I'd yell too, if I was being assaulted.

From the Grave

Why would you send your kid to a school like that in the first place.


I agree, From the Grave. One would think that a parochial school would teach a message of tolerance, instead of the exact opposite. Instead, school-sanctioned discrimination is the example they're setting. I am SO glad that my sons attended public schools.


Oh well, take them to court anyway and tie them up in legal procedures and run their legal costs up and up. You may not win but you got them paying out a lot of legal costs and not so great PR.


And if Virginia has a SLAPP statute, YOU would end up paying those legal fees. What is it about you that you feel the need to force everyone to do things your way?

thinkagain's picture

Good job Timberlake!

Many godless liberal people and institutions are content to sit by and ignore the signs of a developing homosexual or gender identity disorder. Thankfully, there are still some who through love, are willing to provide proper guidance at this critical juncture in a young girls life.

Homosexual people want you to believe “We’re born this way, we CAN'T change.”

Transgender people want you to believe “The way we were born is wrong, so we HAVE to change.”

Our sexual preferences develop, evolve, and grow with us the same way our personalities and likes/dislikes evolve and grow with us.

Sexual desires develop at puberty, not birth.

Homosexuality is a state that a person degenerates into. (Romans 1:18-32).

Homosexuality is learned and can be unlearned, it simply is a choice. And no amount of ignorant hyperbole can change that fact.

For the misinformed ignorant hoard sure to follow: Whoever told you “Jesus is Love” was probably smoking dope. Yes, Jesus came the first time with love for lost mankind. He willingly gave His life that those who believe on Him might be saved and live a life pleasing to Him. The next time He comes, it will be to punish those that did not accept the free gift of His sacrifice and disobeyed his Word.

P.S. Probably wouldn’t hurt if someone would have a talk with her about all the cookies and ice cream too.


Nice to hear from an exspirt on this topic. Please reveal more!
Look out! jaysus is a comin'!

yea right

again a closed mined sister-in-law is a "tomboy"..but she is a girl all the way..even dates ..when you grow up maybe you can have an opinion..haha until then learn the "FACTS"


Putting aside the fact that this article has nothing to do with homosexuality. You are saying a 8 year old girl, who has not reached puberty yet is showing homosexual tendencies, but by your very comment that is when it starts and is learned. Not very sound logic. How can an 8 year old (and before since she started this before now) learn to be a homosexual if she hasn't reached that part of her life yet according to you? Clearly if this were the case she was born this way.

Regardless she wishes to dress this way, much the same way teenage girls sometimes make questionable clothing choices and boys wear painted on skinny jeans and pink shirts.

FYI: my mom, while she dresses like a female most days, there are times she is much more comfortable being a "tomboy". I have also been told she was a tomboy in her youth. Explain that one to me.

The Big Dog's back

"Homosexuality is learned and can be unlearned, it simply is a choice. And no amount of ignorant hyperbole can change that fact."

Are you a recovering homosexual neverthinks?


ThinkAgain, it is ye who are misinformed and ignorant. Much has been learned about homosexuality over the past 30+ years, yet you still believe all the pre-1980 information that his since been completely disproven. Nearly every sentence in your lengthy post contains incorrect, debunked info.


The Rev. A-hole has spoken again!Hope you meet your maker sooner than later.

seriously 1137

Wtf is wrong with you Thinkagain? I can't believe people like you can follow Jesus and spew such hateful close minded bs!!!!!


Way to go Thinkagain , You've already condemned this child without knowing anything about the situation . These people were by all rights Christians and trying to live by your values . Just like Phelps , you further the cause in the opposite direction you want . Oh yeah , And Jesus walked around in a dress , had long hair , and hung out with nothing ,but dudes . Guess he would have needed a talking to if he went to that school as well . ; ))))

thinkagain's picture

Don’t make me open up my can of spinach and go all Popeye on ya. ;)

Pterocarya frax...

We would rather see you open your mind and go all christian like.


And the score is, Open-minded Pterocarya: 1 Closed-minded ThinkAgain: 0


Bring it on dumb a-s.

UK seem to know it all!!! And by all I mean NOTHING. People like you are what is wrong with the world today. Simple as that. You judgmental, my way or the highway attitude. You don't even deserve a decade because you are not worth it. :) TOOTLES!.


P.s. I love your comment Bluto!

The Big Dog's back

Very "Christian" of this school.

thinkagain's picture

Indeed it is. Well said!

The Big Dog's back

Reagan opened Pandora's Box when he gave these religious wackos a voice back in the 80's. Thanks ronny.


Why is it that supposed Christian Schools are often the least-Christian-like places where a child can be educated? I guess it's because Christians are often the least Christ-like among us. If I want to look for an example of moral behavior, churches and church schools are the last place I would look.

When the Bible is used as an excuse for discrimination, there is no way to morally justify that.


Why is it those who condemn Christianity also presume to define it?

They have their beliefs, and you have yours. Leave it at that and live your life.


My mom was all woman and there was nothing male about her but due to an injury at the back of her head she had to wear her hair short or she had horrible headaches that would almost incapacitate her at times. We knew her hair was getting to long when the headaches would start and we would take her and get her hair cut and they would stop immediately. She also wore pants all the times because of the severe arthritis in her legs and felt that pants gave kept her legs warmer and that in turn eased her pain. My mom also love God and there was never a more God fearing Christian woman than her. Again there was NOTHING male about my mom - from the day she was born till the day she died! I'm embarrassed by what this school has done. This child did what in my mind was a very Christ like act - gave selflessly to others by cutting her hair so that others that don't have can have some. What they did to this child was punish her instead of award her for her act of kindness. If I had a child in this school - or had a relative with a child in this school - they wouldn't be in there for long!!!!!


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.



thinkagain's picture

"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).

thinkagain's picture

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.

thinkagain's picture

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.

thinkagain's picture

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.

thinkagain's picture

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.


Well look at what state this occurred in.....


She "collect hunting knives and shoot her BB gun." Coaster and dog already hate her so their self righteous indignation means absolutely nothing. Freaking hypocrites.


Thinkagain has some of the most ignorant points and ideas I've ever heard... You are what's wrong with the world., get a life loser


Here! Here!

Truth or Dare

This child donated her locks of hair for children with cancer! Evidently her parents weren't the type to talk her out of it, maybe by trying to convince her that the children or their parents probably did something wrong, some kind of horrid sin to deserve getting cancer! By the way, the part about the school not wanting to comment, that there were extenuating circumstances doesn't surprise me. Sounds to me like she was being bullied as well. I mean really, she's attacked by 2 boys and dragged into the boys restroom and she is punished for yelling for help?! Gotta love that zero tolerance, eh? Which by the way is the complete opposite in regards to the gifts of God's Spirit Christians are instructed within NT Scripture to pray for. There is a word for this, it's called O-S-T-R-C-I-Z-E!


Your judgement of their policies is IRRELEVANT, unless you're a voting member of the congregation that runs the school. Regardless of what you (or I) think of their policies, it's their church, their school, and none of our stinking business what policies they set there, up to and until the point where they fan out into the streets to conscript students at gunpoint.

Don't like it? DON'T JOIN. It's that simple.


Or....Richard & Virginia Loving. Their marriage illegal. He was white. She was black. They were State Law Violators. This seems similar.

Truth or Dare

They're already fanned out into the streets, only instead of using a gun as a weapon of force, they're using the Bible and are backed with millions of tax exempt $$$$'s lobbying on Capitol Hill and using our Supreme Court to enact laws that effect all, even those that are of no faith/religion at all.

The way this child was treated is discriminatory, period. So glad her Grandfather stepped up and became her Advocate, a human redeemer of sorts. By the way, it is my business, as I have a grandchild that attends a pre-school that is ran by a local church. It shakes me to the core to think that he could possibly be treated the same way should his parents let his hair grow long and he would like to wear the color pink. There are no worries as to me joining any org. that is so zealous they would treat a child in this manner. As a matter of fact, haven't been a member of any organized religion since shortly after 9/11. The Sunday following was ranked the highest church attendance nation wide. That Sunday, from the pulpit of the church I was a member of, the minister in his sermon actually blamed the attacks on all the gays within our country. I was God Smacked! I'm not gay, never was, never will be, and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit within the walls of any church that would discriminate in such a horrid manner.