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Assistant Principal Sued After Trapping Trans Student in Bathroom

livengood

Following a confrontation in a West Virginia bathroom, a transgender student is suing the Harrison County Board of Education and an assistant principal for failing to protect him from what he says is abusive treatment.

Back in 2018, Assistant Principal Lee Livengood accosted student Michael Critchfield in a boy’s bathroom. Critchfield was using the restroom before embarking on a long bus ride for the school band, but when he emerged from the stall, he found Livengood blocking his exit. 

Livengood allegedly demanded that Critchfield use a urinal in front of him to prove that he belonged in that bathroom. Livengood later denied that he made that request, but in a letter following the incident, Critchfield described how the assistant principal kept raising his voice in anger, eventually shouting loud enough that people could hear him out in the hall. A parent intervened, finding Critchfield in tears.

Later, Livengood reportedly told Critchfield, “I wasn’t trying to be rude or anything … I’m not going to lie: You freak me out.”

The school initially suspended Livengood, but he was approved to continue with the district several months later.

Critchfield and his family attempted to address the issue using school channels, meeting with Superintendent Mark Manchin along with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and other parties. In that meeting, they discussed creating a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school, implementing better policies for respecting trans students, and reducing Livengood’s contact with Critchfield.

But the school provided no evidence that it followed through with those steps, and in fact Livengood has had repeated contact with Critchfield according to the ACLU. As a result, the ACLU is filing suit on Critchfield’s behalf.

“Time and time again, we have attempted in good faith to work with Harrison County Schools to create a safe environment for Michael and others like him,” said Loree Stark, the legal director of the ACLU of West Virginia, “but school officials have not taken this seriously.”

In the suit, Livengood is accused of false imprisonment for trapping Critchfield in the bathroom, as well as assault, sexual harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The Harrison County Board of Education is also named for their failure to address the issue, as well as for renewing Livengood’s contract.

The goal, says the ACLU, is “to create an environment where Michael feels safe. … We’re seeking injunctive relief to guarantee that Michael can go to school, be safe, and not be subjected to this individual who is menacing.”

In a statement, Critchfield said that he hopes to help other students facing similar harassment. The ACLU is also seeking to compel the district to implement policies addressing bullying.


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