An assistant principal who challenged a transgender student to use a urinal in front of him to prove he was male will be reinstated next month, a West Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night.
Assistant Principal Lee Livengood will return to work at Liberty High School on Feb. 1.
Frank Devono Jr., president of the Harrison County Board of Education, told INTO that board’s decision to reinstate Livengood was based on an investigative report from Superintendent Mark Manchin.
“After that report had been filed, and after that report had been completed, [it found] it did not warrant termination, it warranted a suspension and unpaid suspension,” said Devono. “And that he at that point would complete the stipulations that the superintendent and the board came up with, and that he would be able to come back to work.”
The incident in question dates back to Nov. 27 when Livengood allegedly followed transgender sophomore Michael Critchfield into an otherwise empty boys’ bathroom and loudly challenged him to prove he was male, stating “Come out here and use the urinal.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of West Virginia, Livengood also repeatedly misgendered Critchfield and said, “I’m not going to lie: You freak me out.”
Devono said that since the incident, the district has met with the ACLU and experts at West Virginia University. He said that all staff will be trained in transgender sensitivity.
Board members met in closed executive session Tuesday night before voting to reinstate Livengood. The exact terms of his reinstatement have not been disclosed.
Initial reports from the district suggested that Livengood had been suspended with pay following the incident, but Devono said that board members objected to his continuing to be paid and placed him on unpaid leave through February.
Devono said the district held meetings with Critchfield’s parents and the ACLU on appropriate next steps before voting on Tuesday.
“They weren’t looking for termination so much as they were looking to use this as a teaching scenario that could benefit other students that are dealing with the same type of situation,” he said.
The ACLU of West Virginia appeared to support the vote, but declined to immediately offer any details about what transpired between the district, Livengood, Critchfield’s family, and the ACLU. In a statement from Executive Director Joseph Cohen, the organization said it was encouraged by discussions with Superintendent Manchin.
“Michael and his family were heartened with the outcome of the meeting and are now looking forward to working with the school district to make a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ students in Harrison County,” Cohen said. “Because of Michael’s bravery and willingness to come forward, we now have the opportunity to replicate and expand on inclusion practices in other counties across West Virginia to ensure this never happens again to anyone under any circumstance.”
Timothy Ward, a spokesperson for the ACLU of West Virginia said the organization would be releasing more information on what steps the district had taken that led to its positive statement, pending conversations with Critchfield.