The West Virginia Supreme Court reinstated a lawsuit against the Harrison County School Board that claims the board was negligent after a public school official allegedly harassed and discriminated against a transgender student.
The lawsuit was initially thrown out by a Harrison County Circuit Court, which claimed the school board was not liable for the alleged actions of assistant principal Lee Livengood. However, the state supreme court reinstated the lawsuit last week, ruling the plaintiffs could pursue their lawsuit on the grounds of negligence per se and negligent retention.
According to the lawsuit, the transgender student, Michael Critchfield, identified as a boy and tried to use the male restroom. The complaint alleges Livengood stood in Critchfield’s way and said “come out here and use the urinal” to prove the student’s gender as he referred to the student as female. Livengood has said he was unaware of the student’s gender identity.
The complaint alleges the school board kept Livengood in his position and he continued to intimidate Critchfield. The complaint also alleges the school board and administration failed to contact the student’s parents for weeks after the alleged incident. Livengood was eventually suspended and later reinstated.
Critchfield is represented by the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union.
“We’ve said all along we wouldn’t tolerate the kind of behavior Michael endured from a student and we certainly shouldn’t tolerate from a school official who is supposed to educate and protect students,” ACLU State Director Loree Stark said in a statement.
Upon the Supreme Court’s decision, the case will return to the circuit court.
The state of West Virginia is also n a lawsuit regarding transgender students regarding a law that requires transgender athletes to enroll in sports that align with the student’s biological sex. Supporters of the lawsuit claim a biological male would have an unfair advantage over a biological female in athletic competitions, regardless of which gender the student identifies with. Opponents say the law discriminates against transgender students by refusing to acknowledge the gender with which they identify.
A lawsuit against the state was also filed by the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union.
The Department of Justice also chimed in on the West Virginia law this week, alleging it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The DOJ also alleged that the law violates Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination, which could threaten their federal funding of athletics.