A high school in West Virginia is facing pressure to take further action after an assistant principal was suspended for only four days after telling a transgender student “you freak me out” during a disturbing sequence of events in a school bathroom.
Liberty High School student Michael Critchfield, 15, told the Associated Press during an interview that the situation unfolded on November 27 when assistant principal Lee Livengood asked him why he was in the boys’ bathroom and told him that he “shouldn’t be in here.”
Critchfield said the assistant principal used incorrect gender pronouns and blocked him from leaving the bathroom. The incident continued when Livengood told the student to use a urinal to prove he was a boy. Moments later, a chaperone for a school trip was present when Livengood then told the 15-year-old, “Not going to lie. You freak me out.”
It is not yet clear whether the suspension levied against Livengood will be extended — or if the assistant principal will face additional punishment stemming from his transphobic comments.
The ACLU of West Virginia noted in a written statement that a school district investigation is still underway. Harrison County Schools Superintendent Mark Manchin has agreed to sit down with the civil liberties group after it decried the light suspension.
“While we are heartened to hear the administration admit to wrongdoing, a four-day paid suspension of an employee is not sufficient,” the ACLU of West Virginia said in its statement. “The Harrison County School District needs to make significant changes to its culture. We look forward to meeting with Mr. Manchin and developing a real plan to ensure that every student is safe.”
Manchin did not immediately return phone calls or emails regarding the status of the investigation.
A spokesperson for Fairness West Virginia, a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to LGBTQ civil rights, told Gay City News that the organization will be meeting with school officials on January 4 to discuss “how to make Harrison County schools safer.”
“We are deeply disturbed by this incident, but we are hopeful that this presents an opportunity for Liberty High School to set an example for how to become inclusive of all students,” said Billy Wolfe, who serves as Fairness West Virginia’s communications specialist.
Wolfe said the “horrifying incident” reflects the need for West Virginia’s state legislature to codify protections for LGBTQ people.
“We would not tolerate this type of bullying from a student, and we should not accept it from an administrator, either,” he said.