CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin said he feels “comfortable” with the aftermath of a November 2018 incident of alleged bullying of a transgender student of Liberty High School, despite the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia (ACLU-WV) claiming otherwise.
The ACLU-WV released a statement Wednesday claiming that “talks have stalled” between the two entities.
According to the news release, the ACLU-WV, Fairness West Virginia and the Harrison County board of education met in January, with a goal to put in place concrete steps to create a supportive, bully-free environment for Critchfield and other LGBTQ students attending Harrison County Schools.
“Leaving that meeting, we were very confident that we had reached an agreement that would not only protect Michael but also change the status quo at Liberty High School,” ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark said in the release. “What has transpired since then does little to convince anyone involved that the administration, the Harrison County Board of Education or Lee Livengood are taking this incident seriously.”
The agreed upon terms included: establishing a gay straight alliance (GSA) at Liberty High School, prohibiting Livengood from direct or indirect contact with the student, Michael Critchfield, requiring Livengood to provide Critchfield with a written apology, instituting best practice trans-inclusive policies and requiring county-wide LGBTQ sensitivity training for faculty and staff.
Livengood’s apology letter to Critchfield in its entirety states, “I am deeply sorry for raising my voice while in the bathroom on 11/27/18. I promise it won’t happen again.”
The ACLU-WV’s statement called this “troubling.”
“Although ACLU-WV has attempted to work in good faith with the school system to finalize the agreed-upon terms, no resolution has been reached on most of the items, in particular the institution of appropriate trans-inclusive policies, discussed at the meeting,” the release said.
However, Manchin said he felt differently following the meeting, and that he thought the parties “had all reached an amicable solution.
“Now Harrison County has a protocol of how you handle these situations,” he said. “Our principals have been debriefed, we’ve discussed how when instances similar to what happened with this young person exactly how we’re going to handle future incidents such as that, how we’re going to handle name changes and things of that nature, how we refer to individuals who are transgender students.”
Manchin said personnel from West Virginia University also worked with principals and central office staff during this process.
“Clearly the Harrison County Board of Education has worked diligently to assure that this will never happen again and have established clearly delineated protocols and ways of addressing these incidents,” he said. “I feel comfortable, my staff feels comfortable, our principals now feel comfortable that they know, and we want to assure that none of our students have to go through what this student went through.”
Livengood was reinstated Feb. 1 following an unpaid suspension and investigation into the matter.
Critchfield continues to attend Liberty High School.
“I refuse to allow the Board of Education and Assistant Principal Livengood to sweep what happened to me under the rug,” he said. “Since the incident in the bathroom, I have seen little effort from the administration to create real change and ensure this never happens again. That is a slap in the face to me and unacceptable for all LGBTQ students in Harrison County.”