The Harrison County Board of Education voted Tuesday to not renew the contract of a Liberty High assistant principal who the county schools superintendent said confronted a transgender student for using the boys’ restroom.
That’s according to Mark Manchin, the superintendent, and the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia, which sent a letter to Manchin in December regarding the allegation and publicized the alleged incident.
The ACLU alleged that Assistant Principal Lee Livengood harassed Michael Critchfield, 15, in a boys’ restroom on Nov. 27.
“While Michael was still using the facilities in the stall, Mr. Livengood came into the restroom and began questioning Michael as to why he was using the restroom,” the ACLU said in a letter to Manchin. “Shockingly, Mr. Livengood then challenged Michael to ‘come out here and use the urinal,’ if he was really a boy.”
Manchin, a cousin of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,said he had recommended continuing Livengood’s probationary contract for a fourth year, but the school board rejected that in a unanimous vote. The superintendent said the board gave no reason in closed session or in the open part of the meeting.
He said a board can essentially decide to not renew a probationary contract without cause, while that’s not the case with a continuing contract. He said Livengood’s employment will end June 30.
Manchin said several people spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“I would not suggest that there’s any correlation between those individuals being there and the board’s action,” he said.
He said he didn’t know why board members made the decision but that he respects it.
In tweets Tuesday, the ACLU of West Virginia said the board members’ decision came “after 1,100 signatures were presented to them tonight in opposition to their inaction and several testimonies from community members.”
Loree Stark, legal director for the ACLU of West Virginia, said in a written statement that, “while we’re glad to see Harrison County Schools taking accountability for what happened in the bathroom that day, we expect talks to resume regarding the implementation of best practice trans-inclusive policies that will better protect LGBTQ students and create a safer learning environment for Michael moving forward. Anything less would be unacceptable.”
Manchin said he wasn’t aware of what the organization was referencing when it said talks had stalled. He said a new protocol for accommodating transgender students has been created.
But Manchin has said that, while there’s no written policy on the issue, the county school system doesn’t allow transgender students to use the restrooms matching their gender identities.
“We provide them a restroom, a private restroom right now,” or they can use the restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate, Manchin has said previously. He suggested that allowing a transgender student to use the restroom matching their gender identity could make other students and parents uncomfortable.