Last year, a transgender student at Liberty High School in West Virginia claimed he was “cornered, harassed and intimidated” in a bathroom by Assistant Principal Lee Livengood. After the student walked out of the stall in the boys’ restroom during a band trip, Livengood was allegedly standing there (outside the stall) to ask why he was in that restroom.
He challenged the student to “come out here and use the urinal” to prove that he was a boy. Again, this was an older man, in a position of authority, blocking a student from coming out of a stall and leaving the bathroom, all because he didn’t accept the student’s gender identity.
Even after a chaperone arrived on the scene, Livengood supposedly said to the student, “I’m not going to lie, you freak me out.”
For all that, he was suspended (with pay) for four days and lost his job… until he was rehired weeks later. Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin claimed it was a “difficult decision” without elaborating. (Difficult for whom?) The end result was that Livengood, a threat to trans students, was once again permitted to roam the halls.
“This action is a last resort,” said Loree Stark, ACLU-WV legal director. “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, but school officials have not taken this seriously.”
“What happened to Michael shouldn’t happen to any kid,” [attorney Teresa] Toriseva said. “For four long minutes, Michael was held against his will by a man twice his size and who was in a position of authority, who was screaming at him and demanding he expose himself.
“We would not tolerate this kind of behavior from a student, and we certainly shouldn’t tolerate it from an assistant principal, and yet the Harrison County School Board has done just that.”
Among the charges in the lawsuit are “false imprisonment” by confining Critchfield in the restroom, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent retention hiring.
For his part, Livengood “apologized” in a half-hearted way by saying he was sorry for “raising my voice while in the bathroom.” As if the problem had to do with a decibel level. Clearly, Livengood has learned nothing from all of this.
The lawsuit also calls for a restraining order to keep Livengood away from Critchfield and his family. The school board failed to protect this student and other trans kids, and prioritized Livengood’s well-being instead. It’s irresponsible if not criminal to reward someone for threatening a student. And yet Livengood remains in his job as the new school year begins.
Students deserve far better than that.
(via Pink News. Portions of this article were published earlier)