- March 28, 2014
Post by Rohmteen Mokhtari, Former HRC Coordinator, Family Project
This month the family of 8-year-old Sunnie Kahle made the painful decision to change schools after the school she loved complained that Sunnie was acting and dressing too much like a boy.
In a letter sent to her family last month the principal of Timberlake Christian School wrote, "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,"
The school acknowledges that Sunnie has done well academically and has shown good behavior but they refuse to accept her for who she is and insist she must conform to their narrow gender stereotypes.
One thing Sunnie has going for her is a supportive family. Her grandparents, who have adopted and raised her, are determined to let Sunnie be Sunnie.
"How do you tell a child when she wants to wear pants and shirt and go out and play in the mud and so forth, how do you tell her, 'No you can't. You've got to wear a pink bow in your hair, and you've got to let your hair grow out long?'" her grandmother asks. "How do you do that? I can't do that."
As a private school, Timberlake has the legal right to accept or reject students as they wish but their actions contradict the some of the core values of love and empathy central to the Christian faith.
Or as Sunnie's Grandmother puts it, "to claim that we are condoning sexual immorality in our home is nonsense,.. We are Christians. We understand the Bible. Sunnie knows it very well. She has accepted Christ."
The schools' actions are also concerning because of the message it sends to the students who remain at Timberlake.
The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program is working across the country to help elementary schools support all students and families. We have seen schools - including parochial schools – from Florida to Washington State work to welcome all students regardless of how they express their gender.
In addition our Religion and Faith Program is working with families and religious leaders to ensure that no one has to choose between what they believe and who they are.
We anticipate that the day will come when actions like those taken against Sunnie Kahle are seen as unthinkable.
Watch Sunnie and her family speak for themselves below and find resources to stop gender stereotyping at your school.