Teacher suspended after transgender boy 'forced to use urinal to prove he was male'
A high school assistant principal has been suspended for allegedly bullying a transgender student in the bathroom, challenging the boy to use a urinal to prove he was male and telling him, “you freak me out.”
According to the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lee Livengood, the assistant principal at Liberty High School in Clarksburg, US, followed 15-year-old transgender student Michael Critchfield into the boys’ toilets on November 27 and harassed him.
In a letter addressed to head of the Harrison County School District Mark A. Manchin and sent to Yahoo Lifestyle by the ACLU, Michael was using the men’s bathroom when Mr Livengood entered and asked the teen why he was inside the stall.
Mr Livengood allegedly told the student, if he was a boy he should “come out here and use the urinal.”
Michael replied that he was born a female but identifies as male.
Michael alleges Mr Livengood blocked the exit door and yelled, “What would happen” if a male student believed the boy was “checking him out,” enabling students in the hallway and in the cafeteria to overhear.
The teacher also allegedly refused to use correct pronouns when speaking to Michael.
After the assistant principal agreed to let Michael leave, the student began “crying uncontrollably” and was consoled outside the bathroom by a parent.
“Before Michael left to return to the band room with the adult, Mr Livengood, an adult who is supposed to be responsible for the safety and well-being of children, looked at Michael and said, ‘I’m not going to lie. You freak me out’,” the letter continued.
The next day, Michael’s parents Caroline and Jon Critchfield met with members of the school and the Harrison County School District, and were promised an investigation.
According to the ACLU, Liberty administrators have refused to call the student “Michael,” used his birth name over the intercom during school announcements, and told him he couldn’t use the boys’ room, despite reminders from the family.
According to WV News, Mr Livengood disputed some of Michael’s claims.
The alleged treatment violates Michael’s constitutional rights under West Virginia’s Anti-Bullying Statute on “harassment, intimidation or bullying,” and the district’s own sexual harassment policy.
The ACLU asks that staff are trained to work with transgender students and to follow established policies.
It also wants Mr Livengood to be disciplined for his treatment of Michael.
School’s ‘inappropriate’ treatment of transgender student
On Monday Mr Manchin, who did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail Mr Livengood could remain at school during the investigation.
“Clearly, the way we’ve handled this is inappropriate,” he said.
“Perhaps we need to do a better job about how we handle these situations. It’s a relatively new issue over the past several years that we’ve become more aware of and sensitive of.”
However, on Tuesday, according to local WV News, Livengood was suspended with pay until the end of the semester — which amounts to four days.
Transgender teen just wants to ‘feel safe’ at school
While the ACLU said it was “heartened” to hear the school admit to wrongdoing, it said a four-day paid suspension was “not sufficient” and significant changes to its culture were needed “to ensure that every student is safe”.
“At the end of the day, all I want is to feel welcome and safe in my school,” Michael said in an ACLU press release.
“Mr Livengood’s behaviour in the bathroom that day was terrifying and no student deserves that kind of treatment.
“I’m telling my story so that high school doesn’t have to be a scary place for kids like me.”