“A Christian school that recently discouraged an 8-year-old student from re-enrolling because she looked too much like a boy is facing numerous threats.
Last week, ABC 8News brought you the story of Sunnie Kahle, a short-haired former student at Timberlake Christian School. Her great-grandparents, Doris and Carroll Thompson, pulled her from the school after receiving a letter from administrators saying their great-granddaughter was no longer welcome unless she shed her tomboyish appearance. TCS said the problem with Sunnie went “far beyond her hair length” and that her presence confused other students and conflicted with the school’s “distinctly Christian environment.”
Hundreds of ABC 8News viewers reacted to the school’s actions on our Facebook page. The story has also received national attention, sparking outrage across the country. A spokesperson for TCS says reaction to Sunnie’s story has gone too far; Campbell County Sheriff’s deputies were stationed at the school and nearby Timberlake Baptist Church this week, because TCS staff and students had been threatened.
According to ABC affiliate WSET in Lynchburg, the threats have gotten so bad that Bryan Ferrell, the pastor of Timberlake Baptist Church, sent a four-page letter home to parents that read in part:
“Within 48 hours after WSET ran the story, emails and phone calls started pouring into our school from as far away as Australia, France and Russia. National media outlets contacted us, asking for a comment. Hate mail of all kinds poured in, as well as threats and condemnation … It would be impossible to watch this story and not feel anger towards TCS if the school had expelled the child because of a haircut or tomboy appearance. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are real Biblical issues at stake in this situation on which we had to act.”
A TCS spokesperson said “physical harm to staff and students was threatened.”
Sunnie’s great-grandparents removed her from TCS and enrolled her in public school. She has since received an outpouring of support in the form of mailed letters, clothing and jewelry.
Sunnie read aloud one letter that said, “Short hair is beautiful and so are you, inside and out. God loves us all the same.”
Doris Thompson said that though she plans on keeping Sunnie in public school, several private schools have offered her great-granddaughter admission.
“Minnesota, Nebraska, all over; it’s just been worldwide,” Thompson said. “You would not believe the preachers that have faxed us and emailed us and told us how wrong it was.”
Thompson says there’s no chance Sunnie will return to TCS.
In his letter to TCS parents, Farrell said the school community is heartbroken that the Thompsons went public with the issue:
“It has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done to watch what this inaccurate story has done to this precious child … We believed friends within our local community would trust the school was acting appropriately and doing the right thing. We expected that they would understand why we refused to give our side of the story … In these past few days, our church’s staff and the school’s faculty have shed countless tears for this child. Teachers have watched as a child they loved has been saddled with burdens she should not have to bear.”
Thompson vows to stand by Sunnie no matter what.
“If she wants to be a lawyer—and she’d make a good one—or a doctor or whatever she wants, I’m hoping I can back her up and be there for her,” Thompson said.”