School children walk down the steps of a school.
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Eight-year-old told she’s too tomboyish for Christian school

Updated

The grandparents of a little girl in central Virginia decided to remove her from the private, Christian school where she had been an excellent student after receiving a letter complaining that their granddaughter’s dress and behavior didn’t “follow suit with her God-ordained identity.”

Sunnie Kahle, 8, sports a short haircut, likes to wear jeans and T-shirts, and collects autographed baseballs, her grandparents told CBS affiliate WDBJ7. She also maintained a 4.0 average at Timberlake Christian School and steered clear of any disciplinary issues, save for her desire to wear boy’s pants as part of her school uniform. (According to the school’s dress code, both elementary boys and girls are allowed to wear pants, but only boys are allowed jeans.)

NewsNation with Tamron Hall, 3/28/14, 12:24 PM ET

Girl expelled from school for appearance

Eight-year-old Sunnie Kahle was kicked out of her Christian school for her tomboy appearance. She and her great-grandmother, Doris Thompson join Tamron Hall to discuss the controversy surrounding Sunnie’s choice in clothes and hairstyles.

The letter to Sunnie’s grandparents, who have raised her from infancy, did not mention any specific violations of the school’s dress code, however, but rather “several occasions when the other students, particularly those who do not know Sunnie personally, have been confused about whether she is a boy or a girl.” Although the school did not expel Sunnie, the letter did ask that she not be re-enrolled next fall unless steps are taken to change her behavior.

Timberlake Christian School reserves the right to refuse admission or discontinue enrollment of any student whose behavior or family conduct is “counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle,” according to the letter, posted online by ABC affiliate WSET. “This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school.”

Sunnie’s grandparents were outraged, and decided to put her in public school instead.

“To claim that we are condoning sexual immorality in our home is nonsense,” said Doris Thompson, Sunnie’s grandmother, to WDBJ7. “We are Christians. We understand the Bible. Sunnie knows it very well. She has accepted Christ.”

School officials declined a request to speak with msnbc, referring the matter instead to Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization. Timberlake administrator Jeff Abbett did send a statement to WDBJ7, however, saying the school was “heart-broken” over the latest developments.

“You can be assured that we have cared for Sunnie and worked with her grandparents for several years to assist them,” read the statement. “Our TCS teachers and administrators love Sunnie and we can assure everyone that this has never been an issue of hair length or boots as it has been portrayed. It has been our constant desire over the last several years to work with this family and to shepherd this precious little girl in a way consistent with traditional values.”

As for Sunnie, her grandparents say she misses the Christian school and the friends she made there.

“I should just be able to be me and not let them worry about it,” the 8-year-old told WDBJ7.

Discrimination

Eight-year-old told she's too tomboyish for Christian school

Updated