CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Harrison County assistant principal accused of bullying a transgender student is suspended with pay until after the holiday break, Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said Tuesday.
Manchin met with Liberty High School Assistant Principal Lee Livengood Tuesday morning regarding the accusation that he harassed a transgender student, sophomore Michael Critchfield, in a boys bathroom at the school on Nov. 27.
“I was able to confirm the interaction with Mr. Livengood and that indeed he acted inappropriately. We need to address it and we will address it,” Manchin said on MetroNews “Talkline.” “Mr. Livengood was contrite. He understood the severity, that it’s a hot button issue, how we need to handle this, he was aware, and unfortunately we didn’t handle it well. He was contrite in understanding that what he did was incorrect so we addressed it.”
The Harrison County Board of Education will address the matter at Tuesday’s meeting with Manchin’s recommendation that Livengood be suspended with pay effective immediately until after the holiday break.
“I think that what we needed to do, which I now feel comfortable with, was do a thorough investigation. Everybody’s entitled to due process, and before I make any recommendations, I always like to talk to the individual in question,” he said. “In this instance, I had that opportunity today. I feel comfortable with the recommendation of a suspension.”
The ACLU-WV issued the following statement after hearing of Livengood’s suspension:
“While we are heartened to hear the administration admit to wrongdoing, a four-day paid suspension of an employee is not sufficient. The Harrison County School District needs to make significant changes to its culture,” the statement said. “We look forward to meeting with Mr. Manchin and developing a real plan to ensure that every student is safe.”
Pending any additional information or further instances, Manchin said the suspension could be mitigated.
Manchin said he’s still doubting some information, as some of what was originally reported was not true, he said.
Harrison County Schools has multiple other transgender students, yet this is the first incident of its kind, Manchin said. Thus, he believes there’s no need for further action.
“I don’t think more needs to be done,” Manchin said. “This does not reflect on our employees of Harrison County who are incredibly understanding and receptive to all types of students. You know, with 11,000 students, there are a myriad of issues that these students face, not only obviously this but a number of different things, and we recognize the differences and we embrace those differences.
“I am very proud of our principals and our teachers who recognize those differences and understand that we have to embrace them and work with all students regardless of their race, creed, color, sexual orientation or anything like that,” he said.
However, Manchin said this is still a relatively new issue that the school system is still becoming more aware of and more sensitive to.
“Ten, 15, 20 years ago, obviously there were transgender students but we didn’t have to address it. Now we do. We recognize that. We’re evolving, and if we need to go further we will,” he said. “But right now I do not believe the necessity of any additional policies or any protections for any students that we do not already have.”
That said, such discrimination is unaccepted in Harrison County Schools.
In fact, Manchin said Harrison County Schools has contacted West Virginia University about the possibility of providing additional training.
Additionally, a meeting with the ACLU-WV will be held following the holiday break.