Harrison County assistant principal accused of bullying transgender student retains legal counsel

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A Morgantown attorney representing the Liberty High School Assistant Principal accused of bullying a transgender student is asking the Harrison County Board of Education reconsider their decision to not renew Lee Livengood’s contract.

Livengood is accused of bullying a transgender student, Michael Critchfield, in a boys bathroom at Liberty High School last year before a Thanksgiving weekend trip involving the school band.

The board voted to not renew Livengood’s contract Tuesday at their regular meeting. His current contract expires June 30.

Alex Shook, of Morgantown-based law firm Hamstead, Williams & Shook, submitted a letter to Harrison County Superintendent Dr. Mark Manchin Thursday claiming that the board’s investigation into the matter was “lacking.”

“I’d like for all of the information to be put out there,” Shook told MetroNews affiliate WAJR-FM in Clarksburg. “There are witnesses that corroborate Mr. Livengood’s side of the story, that he didn’t engage in any bullying behavior, didn’t make any of these derogatory comments that were attributed to him, and I would like to see his contract renewed.”

Shook said there were at least three witnesses that saw and/or heard some or all of the incident.

“One was standing right outside the bathroom door and heard the entire conversation, start to finish,” he said in the letter. “I’ve personally interviewed each of the eyewitnesses, and they each say Mr. Livengood never said anything derogatory or bullying towards the student.”

Additionally, Shook said Livengood had no prior contact with Critchfield.

“He was not previously familiar with the student, the student’s gender identity status, and especially, most importantly, that the student had a private or secret — whatever you want to call it — arrangement with the head principal. That wasn’t shared with the assistant principal or other faculty members.”

Shook claims the entire incident could have been avoided had the principal informed Livengood of the arrangement.

Manchin said that he and the board are in receipt of the letter, though no action has been taken.

“He was not terminated. I think that that’s the most salient point that needs to be made. He was not terminated. His contract was not renewed, and you have to distinguish between that,” Manchin said.

Additionally, Manchin said that the November incident and the decision to not renew Livengood’s contract are not connected.

“No specific reason was given to me as to why they didn’t want to renew,” Manchin said. “Now anybody can include whatever they want, but there’s been no conclusion that Mr. Livengood was not renewed because of this incident.”

Manchin explained that Livengood is a probationary employee of Harrison County Schools.

“(The) Legislature, in their infinite wisdom years ago, created the probationary contract and the code, which allows a Board of Education not to renew for no reason.”

The Board, however, would be required to provide a reason for non-renewal at Livengood’s request.

“Right now our position is that we’ll certainly follow what the code requires as far as giving information, but short of that, that’s all we have right now. His contract was not renewed,” Manchin said.

Manchin said he’d like to move on from the incident.

“We’d like to move on and brighten education for our students, all of our students,” he said. “We understand and recognize diversity. We have always been fair and equitable with our students. We have a zero tolerance for bullying, and when we’re made aware of it, we address it.”

A request for comment by the American Civil Liberties Union, West Virginia chapter, was not immediately returned Friday.

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