U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin
blocked single-sex classes at Van Devender Middle school for the rest of the
school year which began a couple of weeks ago, but last Wednesday’s ruling stops
at blocking gender-based training techniques at the school.
questioned the lawsuit’s allegation that all single-sex classes violate the
U.S. Constitution or a federal education law targeting gender discrimination.
He says federal rules require complete voluntary programs and the Wood County School’s
program offers only an opt-out provision.
Patrick Law is the Superintendent of
Wood County Schools and said the school was looking for a way to improve test
scores and thought they had found an approved program.
“One of the means that they came across
was the single-sex or gender based instruction, this was something that in
federal regulations was allowed and this was something that they thought would
possibly be beneficial to the students there at the school and so in order to
try to raise those test scores they tried this method,” Law said.
As of yesterday the classes were
integrated to adhere to the ruling.
Van Devender is one of five middle
schools in the county. They began a program two years ago that offered separate
classes for reading, math, social studies and science classes by gender.
school first adopted the policy for sixth grade two years ago. The county
school board then allowed the school to expand the policy gradually to the remaining
grades. Law said his teachers tried not to change much in their classrooms.
“There is an awful lot of training and
instruction that they went through that recommended that, but in talking with
the teachers, the teachers made very little different in their classes, they
generally try to address each individual student’s needs,” Law said.
One parent sued because she objected to
how her three daughters were being treated at the middle school. They were in
the 6th grade last year and are now in seventh grade . Sarah Rogers is the Staff
Attorney for the ACLU of West Virginia.
“We are very pleased with the order from
the judge, obviously he didn’t reach the merits of the case, this was a
preliminary injunction order so he started with the regulations and ended
there, but we’re very pleased that the judge held that these kinds of
single-sex classes have to be opt-in rather than opt-out,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that students were not
appropriately given the option of opting out of a program they say violates
Title IX - which bars discrimination in education based on a student’s sex.
“This program was not voluntary and
parents weren’t really notified of the nature of the program in any meaningful
way, nor were they given any co-educational option at the school. It clearly
violated the regulations of Title IX. These classes under the constitution were
illegal and the government needs an exceedingly persuasive justification before
they can separate students based on sex,” Rogers said.
Rogers said through Freedom of
Information inquiries the ACLU determined that the techniques being used for
girls and boys differed too much based on gender stereotypes. Rogers said the
next step is still in the air, as to whether a settlement might be reached or
if the case may go to court.
“The methods that were being used
treating boys and girls differently seemed to very much be based on stereotypes
and seemed to consistently make gender salient in the minds of boys and girls,
making it the most important thing in the classroom, all children should be
offered the most appropriate educational programs,” Rogers said.
Both parties declined to comment on the
extent of those techniques with the case still in the courts. Wood County
Superintendent Patrick Law said he’s not sure what the future holds for the
single-sex classes program at the school.
“We’ll certainly be looking for other
opportunities or other means to improve test scores and there are other ways
and models, but I think the teachers are probably best source of information on
how to reach those goals,” Law said.
The ACLU also sent letters to schools in
Florida, Maine, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia to stop single-sex programs.
Two other programs in Kanawha and Cabell counties are discontinued for the time