A school board in Harrison County, West Virginia, has suspended an assistant principal at Liberty High School in Clarksburg on charges that he harassed a transgender student.
Liberty High School Assistant Principal Lee Livengood was suspended with pay until the end of the semester, said Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin, who met with school administration after the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia alleged in a letter that Livengood “cornered, harassed and intimidated (a transgender student) in a public boys’ bathroom.”
The ACLU wrote that the student, who identifies as male, went into a boys’ restroom ahead of a scheduled bus trip to Morgantown. Livengood then entered the restroom and questioned why the student was using the facilities. The student said he was using the boys’ restroom because he is a male.
Livengood “challenged (the student) to ‘come out here and use the urinal’ if he was really a boy,” the letter alleges. He then blocked the exit as he “continued to berate” the student loudly, attracting the attention of his classmates,
“I’m not going to lie. You freak me out,” Livengood told the student before he left with a parent who came to his defense.
The student, Michael Critchfield, says he has experienced significant anxiety since the incident, and released a statement, saying:
“At the end of the day, all I want is to feel welcome and safe in my school. Mr. Livengood’s behavior in the bathroom that day was terrifying and no student deserves that kind of treatment. I’m telling my story so that high school doesn’t have to be a scary place for kids like me and kids in general with different identities and different sexualities. High school should never be scary. It should be a place you feel welcome and safe in to learn and grow.”
Responding to the decision, the ACLU said:
“The Harrison County School District needs to make significant changes to its culture. We look forward to meeting with Mr. Manchin and developing a real plan to ensure each student is safe.”
Manchin says that Livengood “was very contrite in his demeanor, recognized that it was inappropriate and was very apologetic,” noting that he has denied some of the accusations.
Livengood “has said he never said certain things that were very inappropriate. I’m just trying to confirm how that conversation went. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the child in question, so as we, the ACLU, and I’m assuming the child in question and the parents are in, I’ll be able to gather more information,” Manchin said.
Livengood is expected to return to work after the holiday break, likely ahead of a planned meeting between Manchin and representatives of the ACLU.
“Right now, in this interim period — and I may get further information — he’s scheduled to be back to work on Jan. 2,” Manchin said, “so it’s conceivable that he may be back before I’m able to confirm. I intend to next week continue investigating.”
Critchfield’s mother criticized Livengood’s behavior, and says she has questioned why the incident occurred:
“I have a lot of questions why. This is someone who’s to provide safety and provide a safe place for my son, and not to belittle him, not to misgender him, not to degrade him, not to make him feel uncomfortable and create phobia in him, and not to talk to him that way and tell him the things he told him. … I’m just picturing my son in a situation with this man humiliating him, degrading him, misgendering him, harassing him. It just boggles my mind that someone could be that way. He works for the school system.”
Harrison County, meanwhile, is contending with calls to fire Livengood.
Lee Livengood doesn’t deserve a 4-day suspension with pay. He should be fired immediately and charged as a sexual predator. Call the school: 304-326-7470. @HarcoboeWV educate your educators re: trans students! @ACLU_WV we support you! https://t.co/lsQ58yoJn4
— Kelly Mantle (@thekellymantle) December 20, 2018
Why, @HarcoboeWV, do you allow sexual perverts work with students. AP Lee Livengood followed a child into a bathroom, demanded to see his genitals & wouldn't let him leave. He should not only be fired, but charged with sexual assault. What kind of sick operation do you run?
— EsseMorgaine (@FistfulOfGitane) December 19, 2018
@HarcoboeWV Care to explain why Asst Principal Lee Livengood was left in a position where he could continue to harass, belittle, and physically intimidate LGBTQ+ students for weeks? Or why his only punishment is 4 days of paid suspension?
That's not how you protect students. https://t.co/sEO9zsKKeS
— Andrew M. Millman (@AMMillman) December 18, 2018
Lee Livengood needs to be fired immediately, if not arrested. This is horrific. https://t.co/JKL8SH4gau
— the holiday demon 👹🎄 (@deathcab4booty) December 18, 2018
Critchfield and his family “are seeking appropriate discipline for Livengood, implementation of best practice policies in Harrison County schools for appropriately handling LGBTQ+ issues, and required training for county teachers, administrators and staff on how to appropriately handle LGBTQ+ issues,” according to WV News.