UPDATE: ACLU-WV files lawsuit over abuse of transgender high school student

Published: Dec. 17, 2018 at 9:46 AM EST
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UPDATE 08/28/19 @ 2:45 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and Teresa Toriseva of Toriseva Law in Wheeling filed a lawsuit in Harrison County Circuit Court over the abusive treatment of a transgender high school student.

According to a release from the ACLU-WV, the lawsuit comes 10 months after a school administrator at Liberty High School bullied and harassed Michael Critchfield for using to boys bathroom after school.

The ACLU-WV says the administrator followed Critchfield into the bathroom, blocked the doorway and continued to berate him for using the boys room. The administrator even told Critchfield to “come out here and use the urinal” to prove he is a boy.

“What happened to Michael shouldn’t happen to any kid,” 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.”

“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.”

Superintendent, Dr. Mark Manchin says he thought the situation was resolved last year and that the Board of Education has not received anything on the lawsuit.

"I find it interesting that they would send out a press release and put it on their website without even serving the board of education," said Manchin. "We've not been served anything."

The ACLU-WV is seeking injunctive relief forcing the administrator from having further contact of any kind with the Critchfields, as well as damages for the family.


The Harrison County Board of Education felt the need to bring a solution to a months long debate.

"We understand that this can be very difficult for a lot of people, on both sides. Hopefully what we've done today will put this behind us and we'll continue to work to assure that all of our students are treated fairly and equitably," said Dr. Manchin, Superintendent of Harrison County Schools.

With an all in favor vote, Liberty High School Assistant Principal, Lee Livengood was granted a continuation of his contract. This comes after an incident in November in which Livengood was accused of harassing transgender student, Michael Critchfield, for using the boys bathroom at Liberty High school.

"We have a protocol of what our principals are to do in issues like this. It's already been discussed. Protocol clearly is identified and there was just a breakdown of communication unfortunately," said Dr. Manchin.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says they too are moving forward with standing by Michael.

In a statement released today the ACLU said, "we will be actively monitoring the situation to ensure Michael and the students of Harrison County are protected moving forward."

"Give you a bathroom that says boy/girl and the laws are laid our very specifically, so there won't be anymore fighting and no more wasting tax-payer dollars on the legal activities that have been going on," said concerned resident, Sharon King.

King says she's followed this story the whole time and feels as though today's decision was the correct one.

"Everything was done in process and order. After that you're usually given another chance. I feel that he should be given another chance, absolutely," said King.

However, the ACLU said Monday night that Livengood showed "a troubling lack of remorse for his actions."

Dr. Manchin says the faculty, including Livengood have gone through sensitivity training and re-visited protocol.

As of now there is no word on if another meeting will be held regarding this matter.

UPDATE 4/29/19 4:00PM

The Harrison County Board of Education decided to allow Assitant Principal Lee Livengood's contract continue, a month after deciding the opposite.

Livengood has been accused of harassing a transgender student in a Liberty High School bathroom. In December, Livengood was suspended from his position and in March, the Board voted to not renew his contract.

That decision was reversed by this meeting.

Stay with 5 News for more information.

UPDATE 12/18/18

The Harrison county board of education held an executive session to discuss the future of assistant principal Lee Livengood.

Dr. Mark Manchin, superintendent of Harrison county schools, says the board is still deciding specifics, but has suspended Livengood with lay, for now.

"We haven't determined yet on the length of the suspension nor with or without pay. But it appears more and more based on the information that I'm starting to receive, that we need to take a stronger stand,"

Dr. Manchin says during the meeting new information was brought up. He plans on meeting with Livengood before taking further steps.

"New information has now been made available to me, so I will be bringing Mr. Livengood back in for further discussion and taking further action

After the incident at liberty high school the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter reached out asking to meet with the board.

"We are meeting on January 4th...for the purposes of opening up the discussion and perhaps, hopefully mitigate the situation,"

Dr. Manchin says he does not know whether the student and his parents will be involved in that meeting.

The superintendent says the board has also reached out to experts in hopes of better educating themselves so that an incident like this is prevented in the future.

"We've already reached out to West Virginia University for the possibility to bring some people in to give us further training,"

Moving forward, Dr. Manchin says he wants to send a message.

"We want to send a very clear message that we will not tolerate that behavior from any of our employees here in Harrison county, and we want to learn,"

UPDATE 12/18/18

An assistant principal at Liberty High School has been suspended following accusations that he bullied and harassed a transgender student in a school bathroom.

Assistant Principal Lee Livengood has been suspended to allow for an investigation into the incident.

The American Civil Liberties Union says while they are glad action is being taken, it is not enough.

"While we are heartened to hear the administration admit to wrongdoing, a four-day paid suspension of an employee is not sufficient," the ACLU said in a statement. "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."

5 News has reached out to Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin for comment, but have not yet heard back.


Harrison County Schools superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin has released a statement in regards to the alleged incident.

"The preliminary information I have received does appear from what I've been able to confirm is that our employee did not act in an appropriate manner, and was not sensitive to the needs of one of our students," Manchin said.


The ACLU of West Virginia is backing a Liberty High School student who alleges an assistant principal bullied and harassed them in the school bathroom.

According to a press release sent by the ACLU Monday, a sophomore student said they were, "cornered, harassed and intimidated in a public boys bathroom" by an assistant principal on Nov. 27.

The release alleges the assistant principal confronted the student in the bathroom and challenged the student to "use a urinal to prove that he was a boy."

"At the end of the exchange, (the principal) told (the student) in front of other students and a chaperone, “Not going to lie. You freak me out,'" according to the ACLU.

The organization today sent a letter to the Harrison County Schools superintendent seeking answers and a resolution.

“The fact that this not only occurred on school property, but was perpetrated by a principal at the school is reprehensible,” said ACLU-WV Executive Director Joseph Cohen. “We trust West Virginia schools to care for and educate our children and because of that, they must be held to a higher standard than what (the student) experienced. This should never have happened in the first place and we are certainly doing everything we can to ensure it never happens again.”

The ACLU said as of this morning, no action had been taken against the principal.

“At the end of the day, all I want is to feel welcome and safe in my school,” the student said in the press release. “(The principal)’s behavior in the bathroom that day was terrifying and no student deserves that kind of treatment. I’m telling my story so that high school doesn’t have to be a scary place for kids like me.”

A request for comment from Harrison County Schools has not been returned.