Despite the fact that the letter they sent to eight-year-old Sunnie Kahle and her grandparents was very clear about her no longer being welcome at her elementary school as she was, Timberlake Christian Schools now says they have been "inaccurately portrayed" in the media. Since TCS is so into getting the facts right, let's look at them.
Earlier this week, the Virginia ABC local affiliate WSET reported that Sunnie had been sent a letter from TCS letting her family know that if she did not change her boyish hair and dress, she would not be allowed to return to school in the fall. WSET aired a shot of the letter, which made only a brief reference to "things [that] disturbed the classroom environment" and was almost entirely about Sunnie's clothes and hair.
Now TCS has released a long press release – in it, they refer to Sunnie as S.K. "In order to protect her privacy" – claiming that reporting about their school has been inaccurate and the facts are not what they seem:
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.
Let's return to that letter from the school principal, shall we? Emphasis added:
I am writing regarding your plans for Sunnie for school this fall. Sunnie is a very bright girl, and we care very deeply about her well-being. It seems that Sunnie has had a difficult year at times with some of the struggles that you and I have talked about on the phone. There also have been several occasions when the other students, particularly those who do not know Sunnie personally, have been confused about whether she is a boy or girl, and at times, these occasions have been troubling to Sunnie. I also understand that Sunnie is being counseled professionally regarding her identity and image in order to steer her in a particular direction to handle these identity issues.
You're probably aware that Timberlake Christian Schools is a religious, Bible-believing institution providing education in a distinctly Christian environment, and we believe that our biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be Christlike. On those occasions in which the atmosphere or conduct with a particular home is counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or discontinue enrollment of a student. 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.
"The School has never told S.K. she cannot return to school," the new press release reads. Oh, so the letter didn't say this?:
...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 education.
TCS goes on to claim that other children and their parents expressed "concerns regarding use of the restroom and other matters arising from the sensitive issues," but has ever-so-tactfully refused to go into further detail. Attorney Mat Staver of the religious legal assistance non-profit Liberty Counsel (which has ties to Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell), who has been hired to represent the school as these waters get murkier, stated in the release that, "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." Ah yes The Book of Proverbs! The most Holy of legal texts.
Screenshot via WSET