Wood BOE’s insurer pays $75K settlement

PARKERSBURG – The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding single-gender classroom that was settled last month cost the Wood County School system’s insurance provider $75,000.

The suit challenged the school system’s single-gender classrooms at VanDevender Middle School. A settlement was approved in Charleston last month in U.S. District Court. In the settlement the school system agreed to pay $65,000 in attorney fees as well as an undisclosed sum to the mother. The judge sealed the amount the school system agreed to pay.

Shortly after the settlement was announced The News and Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM).

Wednesday, Chuck Jones, BRIM’s executive director, responded to the FOIA stating, “The West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management paid a total of $75,000 to resolve all monetary claims made against the Wood County Board of Education in this action.”

Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law confirmed the settlement amount and noted it included the legal fees.

Also as a result of the settlement the school system agreed not to implement any single-gender programs until after the 2014-15 school year. And notice must be given before any gender-based programs are initiated so potential plaintiffs have time to object.

During the 2010-11 school year VanDevender began separating students by gender in reading, math, social studies and science classes. Similar programs were started in Kanawha and Cabell counties, but suspended after the ACLU sent letters to the school systems demanding the classes cease.

The ACLU challenged the Wood County program, declaring it was based on faulty science and violated federal law. A district court judge blocked the school system from separating students by gender during the 2012 school year, shortly after the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit, as the litigation was pending.

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of a mother of three students who attend VanDevender. Jones said the action was filed using pseudonyms and the plaintiffs’ identities are not to be released pursuant to a court order.