A West Virginia high school suspended its assistant principal on Tuesday after a transgender student accused him of harassment.
Liberty High School assistant principal Lee Livengood was suspended with pay following a complaint by sophomore Michael Critchfield, who said Livengood harassed him in a school bathroom last month, according to West Virginia’s American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the child.
Critchfield, who was assigned female at birth but identifies as male, told ACLU that Livengood approached him in the boys bathroom on Nov. 27, and said: “Why are you in this bathroom?” and “You freak me out.”
“He kept asking me why I was in there. [He said], I shouldn’t be in there because I am not a guy, and I told him I am a boy, I identify with this bathroom, and it is my legal right to use this restroom,” Critchfield, 15, told local media outlet Metro News.
“I was barricaded in the bathroom for three or four minutes,” Critchfield said. “And then a band mom was coming down complaining that they could hear Mr. Livengood yelling at me in the bathroom from the cafeteria, from the hallways, and some could hear it from the band room so she came down to see what was wrong.”
Harrison County Schools superintendent Mark Manchin agreed to meet with ACLU officials after receiving a letter on behalf of the teen and said the district has reached out “for help with additional sensitivity training around transgender students,” ACLU said in a statement.
Manchin told the ACLU that Livengood was placed on paid suspension until the end of semester while the school investigates the alleged incident, the constitutional advocacy group said. The school’s semester ends on Friday.
“While we are heartened to hear the administration admit to wrongdoing, a four-day paid suspension of an employee is not sufficient,” 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 that every student is safe.”
Manchin acknowledged that the school “didn’t handle it well,” initially, but he said it does not “reflect on our employees at Harrison County Schools.”
“I was able to confirm the interaction with Mr. Livengood and that indeed he acted inappropriately. We need to address it and we will address it,” Manchin told Metro News on Tuesday. “Mr. Livengood was contrite. He understood the severity, that it’s a hot button issue, how we need to handle this, he was aware, and unfortunately we didn’t handle it well. He was contrite in understanding that what he did was incorrect so we addressed it.”