Metro Weekly

West Virginia assistant principal accused of harassing transgender student will lose job at end of school year

15-year-old student says assistant principal demanded he use the urinal to "prove" he was a boy

Liberty High School – Photo: Harrison County Board of Education.

A West Virginia assistant principal who was accused of harassing a male transgender student for using the boys’ restroom will not have his contract renewed at the end of the school year, the Associated Press reports.

On Tuesday, the Harrison County Board of Education unanimously voted not to renew Lee Livengood’s contract, which ends on June 30. Livengood came under fire earlier this year for allegedly following 15-year-old Michael Critchfield, a student at Liberty High School, into the bathroom to demand why he was using the stall.

Critchfield said he had been slated to travel with the school band to West Virginia University in Morgantown as part of an after-school trip, and decided he needed to go to the bathroom. Before going in, he checked to see if anyone was using the bathroom, and, upon finding it vacant, went inside a stall.

Critchfield then claims Livengood opened the bathroom door and asked if any students were in the stall. Critchfield replied, but when he left the stall, Livengood was standing in the bathroom doorway blocking him from leaving and questioning why he was in there.

Critchfield claims he told Livengood it was his right to use the boys’ bathroom, at which point Livengood challenged the teenager to “come out here and use the urinal” — thereby exposing his genitalia — to “prove” he was “really” a boy.

In a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, Critchfield claimed Livengood told him: “you freak me out.”

In defending himself from Critchfield’s allegations, Livengood insisted that he “never initiated” the conversation about using the urinal.

Harrison County School Superintendent Mark Manchin denied that there was any connection between the incident and the decision not to renew Livengood’s contract at the end of his three-year probationary period.

“It’s not uncommon at all,” Manchin told the AP. “There’s no other reason other than the fact that we just desire not to have him continue as an employee of the Harrison County Board of Education.”

The ACLU of West Virginia said in a Facebook post that it had received more than 1,100 signatures for a petition calling on the school board to take action to discipline Livengood — who was temporarily suspended without pay in January — and to institute diversity training that addresses transgender issues for school staff in the district, to ensure similar incidents never occur again. But the ACLU of West Virginia says the district has yet to implement that diversity training or policies that are trans-inclusive.

“While we’re glad to see Harrison County Schools taking accountability for what happened in the bathroom that day, we expect talks to resume regarding the implementation of best practice trans-inclusive policies that will better protect LGBTQ students and create a safer learning environment for Michael moving forward,” ACLU-West Virginia legal director Loree Stark said in a statement Wednesday. “Anything less would be unacceptable.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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