PARKERSBURG- A sudden shift from single-gender to coed classes has caused issues for Van Devender Middle School.
Van Devender Middle School Principal Steve Taylor discussed the issue Thursday night during a Local School Improvement Council presentation to the Wood County Board of Education.
In August, a judge ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction against single-sex classes at the school, ordering the classes would be halted for the 2012-13 school year and replaced by coeducational classes. The ruling came due to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia 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.
Vandy was the last West Virginia public school to offer the single-sex classes.
Taylor, who has been hesitant to discuss the change due to the lawsuit, said Thursday the sudden change in scheduling made it difficult to place students in specific classes based on their academic needs. The school was forced to spend time moving students between classes in order to ensure more help for struggling students, he said.
In Other Business
The school board voted 5-0 to go into executive session to discuss a personnel issue. A reporter with the Parkersburg News and Sentinel objected to the closed-door session, saying the executive session was not listed on the board's agenda, which also did not contain a time for public comments.
Board President Tim Yeater said the objection was "duly noted" and added no vote would be taken when the board returned to open session. No further explanation of the personnel issue was given.
"We had to redo the schedule pretty quickly," he said. "It's been a pretty hectic nine weeks."
Board member John Marlow asked whether the school had seen an increase in behavior issues since switching back to coed classes.
Behavior is "not as good anymore," Taylor said. "I think any teacher would say that. It's like night and day."
Taylor said he also feared the switch would affect the students academically.
"The involvement of students in the classroom has gone down," he said. "We're very disappointed that we thought we had a good thing going and were forced to stop mid-stream."
Board members and administrators expressed support for the school.
"We are 110 percent behind you," said board member Jim Fox. "We are very disappointed with the courts decisions that have not allowed you to progress the way you wanted to, the way we wanted you to."
Superintendent Pat Law told Taylor Wood County Schools would continue to be an advocate of Vandy.
"The administration does support you and your school and your staff," Law said.
Taylor asked the board to allow him to return at a future meeting to present more in-depth information concerning the impact of the schedule change on Vandy.