The American Civil Liberties Union may or may not sue the Wood County Schools over single-gender classes at VanDevender Middle School, according to the organization's executive director Brenda Green.
The ACLU says the program is not in compliance with federal Title IX regulations, which prevent schools receiving federal funding from discriminating against students on the basis of sex.
Earlier in the spring, the ACLU sent letters to the Kanawha and Cabell school systems - the other school systems in West Virginia offering single-gender classes. Both ended their programs, but say the ACLU threat had nothing to do with the decisions. The Wood County Board of Education, however, voted to continue the program for at least another year to gather data before a final decision is made.
Let's be clear. There are valid reasons for not allowing single-gender classrooms be the norm. But we also must realize this is not the dark ages. Studies have shown they work for some kids. Even federal education officials recognize this, and allow schools to offer single-gender classes if certain criteria is met. The federal guidelines for conducting single-gender classes are strict, but school officials in Wood County insist they are being met.
VanDevender began the single-gender classes in 2010 for sixth-grade boys and girls in core classes. The classes are designed to help students learn in a more comfortable environment and to help control disciplinary problems.
The classes were expanded to seventh-graders last year and will be expanded to eighth-graders this school year.
VanDevender Principal Steve Taylor says it will take more data to show if the single-gender classes are a success, but early returns indicate they have increased test scores and have lowered disciplinary problems. That should be the bottom line for any educational program - helping students learn. That should be the ACLU's goal, also.
If school officials feel they are meeting federal requirements - and are willing to pay the legal costs defending the program may cost - then the school system should not back down from this threat.