PARKERSBURG - Students at VanDevender Middle School will attend their last gender-specific classes today, at least for the 2012-13 school year.
Vandy was the last West Virginia public school to offer the single-sex classes. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia asked for single-gender classes at Vandy to be stopped immediately while the validity of the classes are discussed in court. Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of parent "Jane Doe" whose three daughters are students at the school and claim to have suffered emotional and physical distress as a result of the program. The ACLU asserts the classes are a violation of federal Title IX regulations, which prohibit discrimination based on sex.
Chief Judge Joseph Goodwin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Charleston ruled in favor Wednesday of a preliminary injunction against single-sex classes at the school. Goodwin said the classes would be halted for the 2012-13 school year and replaced by coeducational classes by Monday.
Principal Steve Taylor said Thursday he already had been working on the coed schedule in anticipation of the judge's ruling. Taylor said he must input the new schedule into the school's computer system and then allow the program to "shuffle" the students and place them into the new classes.
"It's not as simple as just moving them to another class. They all have to be coded again. The whole thing has to be rebuilt," he said.
Taylor said he was meeting after school Thursday with teachers. The change will affect 17 of the school's 28 teachers. Taylor also plans to meet today with each grade level at the school and explain the change.
School is closed Monday for Labor Day, but Taylor said when they return Tuesday the students will be in new classes for math, English, science and social studies. The change does not affect those classes that already were coed.
Taylor also said the switch would not affect any funding at the school. Initial training for sixth- and seventh-grade teachers was paid for through a two-year grant, which ended in the spring.
"That's why we did training for our eighth-grade teachers this year in-house," he said.
Taylor said though the injunction is disappointing, he was pleased Goodwin left the door open for the school to revisit the program. In his published opinion, Goodwin indicated the program would be legal if the school and school system corrected certain issues, and could pursue implementing the classes after the 2012-13 school year.
"It kind of leaves the door open," Taylor said. "Right now we are going to focus on the coed classes, and after we get back into the routine with those, I will sit down with the staff and see if (single-gender classes) are anything they want to pursue in the future."
Officials with the school and school system declined a request by the newspaper to take pictures Thursday in a gender-specific class. Superintendent Pat Law cited continued litigation concerning the program.
Brenda Green, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia, said Wednesday lawyers would be reviewing the judges opinion on the temporary injunction and how it might affect the lawsuit, but for now the lawsuit was unchanged and would continue forward.