CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The incident involving a transgender Liberty High School student who was allegedly bullied by an assistant principal in the school’s boy’s bathroom, in November 2018, is back in the headlines, as the student’s family has filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the Harrison County Board of Education.
The lawsuit has been filed in Harrison County Circuit Court. The family is represented by American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) and Teresa Toriseva of Toriseva Law in Wheeling and states that it has been filed over the “abusive treatment of a transgender high school student, and following the school system’s continued failure to follow its own policies regarding the matter. “
Michael Critchfield, a transgender student at Liberty High School, said he was confronted by Assistant Principal Lee Livengood in the boy’s bathroom on November 27, 2018. Critchfield was a 15-year-old sophomore at Liberty High School at the time of the alleged incident. According to a release from ACLU-WV from December 2018, Critchfield said he was “concerned, harassed and intimidated” by Livengood when he was confronted and challenged by him to “use a urinal to prove that he was a boy.”
“This action is a last resort,” said Loree Stark, ACLU-WV legal director, when referring to the lawsuit. “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.”
Livengood was suspended with pay in December and later suspended without pay until February after a vote by the Harrison County Board of Education in January. In March, the Harrison County Board of Education announced that while Livengood would not be terminated, they had decided not to renew his probationary contract.
Following that announcement, Livengood’s lawyer asked the Harrison County Board of Education to reconsider the decision not to renew his contract.
In April, The Harrison County Board of Education voted to grant Livengood a continuing contract.
The lawsuit states that after Livengood confronted Critchfield in the bathroom, Livengood said “I’m not going to lie to you, you freak me out,” in front of Critchfield and a parent of another student. According to the lawsuit, Critchfield’s family spoke with members of the administration at the high school, as well as the assistant superintendent within 24 hours of the incident.
The lawsuit then claimed that despite being assured an investigation would take place, Livengood had continued to be present at the school daily. Additionally, the suit claimed that no one from the school or BOE contacted Critchfield’s family in the weeks following the incident to take further statements or provide any updates to the family.
The suit claimed that Critchfield suffered severe anxiety associated with his education and extracurricular activities following the incident. Critchfield and his family received no meaningful response from the BOE until the ACLU-WV became involved, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges false imprisonment, assault, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent retention hiring and supervision.
In addition to damages for Critchfield and his family, ACLU-WV is seeking injunctive relief forcing Livengood from having further contact of any kind with the Critchfields.
Critchfield has released the following statement:
“Schools are supposed to protect students. I’ve said all along I’m doing this to help other kids who are facing this same kind of treatment.”
To read the lawsuit in its entirety, click here.
As of Wednesday afternoon, board of education representatives said that the board had not yet been served with the lawsuit and had no comment.