School in Virginia girl gender controversy responds


Sunnie Kahle, an 8-year-old girl in Virginia was pulled out of her Christian school after a controversy about her appearance. (Photo courtesy of WDBJ7)

The controversy over an 8-year-old girl who was reportedly singled out by her religious school for not being sufficiently female has prompted school administrators to issue another response.

The story was featured here in Morning Mix, as well as in USA Today, among other outlets.

It appears it was first reported on March 24 when WSET in Lynchburg, Va., stated:

“Sports, sneakers, and short hair; it’s what makes eight year old Sunnie Kahle unique. It’s also what had her removed from Timberlake Christian School. Her grandparents pulled the plug on her time there after they said she was no longer welcome.

“The family received a letter telling them that if their eight year old granddaughter didn’t follow the school’s ‘biblical standards,’ that she’d be refused enrollment next year. She’s out and in public school now.”

The details were described by Sunnie’s family. Although the school issued a statement on Tuesday taking issue with their accusations, it declined to provide any details, citing confidentiality.

Timberlake Christian Schools issued another statement on Wednesday through its lawyers, using the initials “S.K.” to avoid naming Sunnie:

“The Church and the School are limited in what can be related about this situation. With all due respect, the facts are not as S.K.’s great-grandparents have portrayed them. This matter is far beyond a simple ‘hairstyle and tomboy issue’ as inaccurately portrayed. 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. Yet, reports like this have appeared in the media. The School has never told S.K. she cannot return to school.

“The Church and the School have a responsibility to all students, their parents, and guardians. Parents and guardians send their children to the School because of our Christian beliefs and standards. We have a duty to create an environment that is supportive of these Christian values.

“We cannot have conflicting messages or standards because such conflict will confuse our students and frustrate the parents and guardians who have entrusted the education of their children to us. When elementary children and their parents or guardians express concerns regarding use of the restroom and other matters arising from the sensitive issues here, 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. While we welcome all students, parents and guardians are made aware of the School’s Christian mission and beliefs. We not only have a right, but we also have a duty to uphold these Christian standards.

“We deeply regret that the great-grandparents either made inaccurate statements or were quoted out of context. This public discussion is not in the best interest of all concerned. S.K. has been attending our school for several years and we had looked forward to working with her and her great-grandparents privately.”

The statement did not say who had expressed “concerns” about the restroom and other matters.

Separately, Sunnie, who keeps her hair cropped short, wears sporty clothing like T-shirts and sneakers, and enjoys playing with more masculine toys, told WDBJ7 on Tuesday that some of the other students were confused about whether she is a boy or girl.

“I should just be able to be me and not let them worry about it,” Sunnie said.

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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