An assistant principal at a West Virginia high school has been suspended after a complaint was filed alleging he had bullied a transgender male student in a bathroom.
Late last month, before boarding a bus for an after-school marching band trip, 15-year-old Michael Critchfield went to the boys bathroom and asked if anyone was present before entering a stall. As a trans boy, he had made a habit of checking to avoid potential confrontations.
Critchfield and his parents have been open with the school administration, since he began attending as a freshman last year, that he is transgender.
According to Critchfield, Liberty High School assistant principal Lee Livengood entered the bathroom and began harassing the student from outside the stall.
Critchfield says Livengood yelled, “Why are you in here? You shouldn’t be in here.”
Livengood reportedly misgendered Critchfield continually and ordered him to “come out here and use the urinal” to prove he was a boy.
“If you can’t use this urinal, then you shouldn’t be in here,” Livengood yelled, according to Critchfield. “What if a student said you were checking them out in here?”
Critchfield later told the ACLU of West Virginia he felt “degraded and discriminated against.”
According to reports, other students could hear the screaming coming from the bathroom and alerted a parent who was acting as a chaperone that day.
The chaperone confronted the assistant principal outside the bathroom where Livengood allegedly admitted in front of Critchfield, “Not going to lie. You freak me out.”
When Caroline Critchfield picked up her son later that day, she found Michael terrified and traumatized.
The mother addressed the issue with Liberty High School administrators the next day where she was told Livengood would not have any further contact with her son and that an investigation would be launched into the matter.
But after several weeks, no update was forthcoming from the administration.
Additionally, Livengood would reportedly station himself in the cafeteria during Michael’s lunch period, which he hadn’t done before.
The family reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia for help regarding the incident.
‘It shocks the conscience that they’ve apparently taken no steps to discipline Mr. Livengood on this,’ ACLU-WV Executive Director Joseph Cohen told The Daily Beast.
After sending a letter to the superintendent of Harrison County Schools, Dr. Mark A. Manchin, requesting a meeting about the altercation, neither the Critchfields nor the ACLU received a response.
That is, until the media began reporting on the incident.
On Tuesday this week, Manchin told local media that Livengood would be suspended without pay until 2019.
“I was able to confirm the interaction with Mr. Livengood and that indeed he acted inappropriately,” Manchin told West Virginia MetroNews. “We need to address it and we will address it.”
With the Christmas holiday next week, that suspension ‘without pay until 2019' amounts for four days.
“While we are heartened to hear the administration admit to wrongdoing, a four day paid suspension of an employee is not sufficient,” Cohen said in a public statement. “The Harrison County School District needs to make significant changes to its culture.”
Cohen’s statement continued, “We look forward to meeting with Mr. Manchin and developing a real plan to ensure that every student is safe.”
Cohen also underscored how the issue of harassment of transgender teens is literally a life or death issue as the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study earlier this year indicating 51 percent of trans male adolescents had attempted suicide.