TIMBERLAKE, Va. — A Christian school in Virginia is refuting the claims of the great-grandparents of an eight-year-old girl, who went to the media to state that they had to remove the child from school because officials took issue with her lack of femininity.
“With all due respect, the facts are not as S.K.’s great-grandparents have portrayed them,” officials at Timberlake Christian School wrote in a press release on Wednesday. “This matter is far beyond a simple ‘hairstyle and tomboy issue’ as inaccurately portrayed. It is not about that at all.”
As previously reported, local television station WSET first broke the story on the matter, interviewing Doris and Carroll Thompson (originally identified as the grandparents), who raise eight-year-old Sunnie. Mrs. Thompson told reporters that the couple pulled the child out of school because administrators took issue with her choice of clothing, short hairstyle and tomboyish demeanor. Mr. Thompson asserted that the girl was the subject of “discrimination.”
“How do you tell a child when she wants to wear pants and a 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,’” Mrs. Thompson stated to the outlet. “How do you do that? I can’t do that.”
She supplied to WSET reporters a letter that she had received from Principal Becky Bowman.
“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,” it read. “There have also 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, those occasions have been troubling to Sunnie.”
“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 letter continued.
Reports nationwide asserted that the family decided to place the child in public school after receiving the letter because they believed that Sunnie was “unwelcome” for who she was. WSET also reported that if the girl “didn’t follow the school’s biblical standards, that she’d be refused enrollment next year.”
But Liberty Counsel, attorneys for Timberlake Christian School, issued a news release Wednesday stating that the facts are not as they seem, and that officials wanted to set the record straight. While the school could not provide specific details on the matter, they stated that concerns ran far deeper than being a tomboy–alluding to issues surrounding the use of the restroom, among other unspoken matters.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
Officials at Timberlake Christian School said that they felt that the issue should have been kept private–the school did not even wish to release the child’s name–and that despite concerns addressed to the girl’s great-grandparents, “[t]he school has never told S.K. she cannot return to school.”
“We deeply regret that the great-grandparents either made inaccurate statements or were quoted out of context,” the school outlined in its press release. “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.”
“The Book of Proverbs says that he who states his case first seems right until another comes forth to challenge him,” added Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “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.”