The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is appealing the dismissal of a lawsuit regarding a high school official allegedly harassing a transgender teenager. The suit named principal Lee Livengood of Liberty High School and the Harrison County Board of Education as defendants. It alleged that Livengood followed 15-year-old Michael Critchfield into a men’s room at the West Virginia high school. Livengood then allegedly harassed the teen with remarks including, “You freak me out,” and, “You shouldn’t be in here,” before ordering Critchfield to use a urinal to prove his gender.
According to Livengood’s lawyer, the assistant principal was unaware of Critchfield’s gender identity. He also did not know about an arrangement between the student and the principal to use the men’s room, per the Weirton Daily Times.
Fallout from the Incident
Following the December 2018 incident, the school board briefly suspended Livengood with pay before allowing him back to his position. After a three-year probationary period, the school board voted not to renew his contract. However, the board reversed their decision a month later and he returned as vice principal, according to the Times.
The recently-dismissed lawsuit was filed by Critchfield’s family, the West Virginia ACLU (ACLU-WV), and the Toriseva Law firm. The suit named Livengood and the Harrison County Board of Education as defendants. According to the Weirton Daily Times, it alleged that the school board had failed to create a safe school environment.
“Time and time again, we have attempted in good faith to work with Harrison County Schools to create a safe environment for Michael and others like him, but school officials have not taken this seriously,” ACLU-WV director Loree Stark said of the suit, per WBOY 12 news.
A Setback for the Plaintiffs
In January, Harrison County Circuit Judge Christopher McCarthy dismissed the suit as being “without merit.” According to his ruling, the school board was not liable for Livengood’s individual actions.
“The circuit court’s ruling means the school system cannot be held liable for the administrator’s admitted behavior against the student,” said Teresa Toriseva of Toriseva Law, according to WBOY 12.
For now, the ACLU-WV plans to continue appealing the court’s decision to dismiss the suit. “[The] case was dismissed last month on largely procedural grounds,” Stark told WBOY. “But the circuit court’s decision is not the final word, and we are not done fighting for justice in this matter.”
ACLU Transgender Teenager Lawsuit — Sources
WBOY 12 News:
– “ACLU files notice of appeal in dismissal of lawsuit stemming from incident at Liberty High School involving administrator, transgender student”
– “ACLU lawsuit against Livengood, Harrison BOE dismissed in transgender student incident”
– “Lawsuit filed against Harrison Co. BOE on behalf of transgender Liberty High School student allegedly bullied by assistant principal”
The Weirton Daily Times:
– “ACLU appeals in case alleging W.Va. trans teen harassment”