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Gender identity story captures national attention, school issues new response

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Mar 26 2014 08:39:08 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 26 2014 09:26:00 PM EDT

Sunnie Kahle, an eight-year-old, was pulled out of her private school after a principal said she wasn't following "biblical standards."

CAMPBELL COUNTY, Va. -

A young girl in Campbell County is at the center of a national debate about gender identity and religious freedom.

Eight-year-old Sunnie Kahle was pulled out of her private school by her family, after a principal said she wasn't following "biblical standards."

Kahle was attending Timberlake Christian School until late February, when a principal sent home a letter stating that Kahle needed to understand that "God has made her a female."

Kahle was not forced to leave Timberlake Christian.  Her family made the decision to place her in a public school, after receiving the principal's letter.

Kahle has a short hair cut and told WDBJ7 Tuesday that some of her classmates have questioned whether she is a boy or a girl.  Click here to read the original story: http://www.wdbj7.com/news/local/campbell-county-girl-asked-to-leave-school-because-of-boyish-appearance/25161760.

Since late Tuesday, following WDBJ7's initial reports, the story was picked up by national outlets such as CNN, CBS, and the Wasington Post.

Timberlake Christian School released a statement Wednesday afternoon through Liberty Counsel, a legal organization that champions issues of religious freedom.

The statement reads, in part: "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."

Several parents at Timberlake Christian School, who claim to have knowledge of the situation, say Kahle was talking about having a sex change and wanted to use the boy's restroom.

Kahle's family told WDBJ7 that, to the best of their knowledge, those accusations are false.

HERE IS THE FULL STATEMENT FROM LIBERTY COUNSEL:

Liberty Counsel has been asked to represent Timberlake Christian Schools and to correct the record regarding allegations made about Timberlake Christian Schools and an eight-year-old girl by her great-grandparents and reported by a (redacted) news station. The statement below is from the School.

“Timberlake Christian Schools (School) is a ministry of Timberlake Baptist Church (Church). The Church and the School believe in the authority of the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God as an infallible guide for our lives. Our mission is to share the good news that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins. He rose again and offers eternal life to all who will accept him as Lord and Savior.

The School is an extension of the Church. Our mission is to provide an excellent education and to nurture boys and girls in the knowledge of Jesus Christ so that they too can have a personal relationship with him. It pains us to see inaccurate information reported in the media regarding one of our young students, whom we will refer to as ‘S.K.’ in order to protect her privacy. The faculty and staff of the School love S.K. and want what is best for her as a person created in the image of God. We are deeply dismayed over the inaccurate and public nature of this situation and the false and inaccurate reporting.

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.”

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who has been asked to represent the school, commented: “The Book of Proverbs says that he who states his case first seems right until another comes forth to challenge him. I think that accurately describes the misinformation that was reported regarding Timberlake Christian School. The school looks forward to working with the family and moving forward to a positive resolution.”