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Wood Co. board settles single-sex classes lawsuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Wood County Board of Education has agreed to not implement single-sex classes in the county's schools until after the 2014-2015 school year.

The agreement settles a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the mother of three female students at Van Devender Middle School. The lawsuit, filed in 2012, alleged that single-sex classes violate the U.S. Constitution and federal gender equality laws.

Van Devender separated reading, math, social studies and science classes by gender. It first adopted the policy for sixth grade during the 2010-2011 academic year. The school board then allowed Van Devender to expand the policy gradually to the remaining grades.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin approved the settlement Monday, the Charleston Gazette ( ) reported.

The settlement also requires school officials to give notice before any single-sex programs are implemented through the 2018-2019 school year. The notice will give potential plaintiffs time to object.

"Wood County has expressed interest in restoring its single-sex education program," Marissa Harrison, an attorney representing the mother, told Goodwin.

The school system also agreed to pay money to the mother. But Goodwin sealed the amount, except for $65,000 in attorneys' fees. He initially said he would not seal the settlement amount but later changed his mind.

"The matter has created considerable public controversy and there has been some adverse attention directed toward the (juveniles and their mother) as a result," he said.

Before the lawsuit was filed, the ACLU sent letters to school officials in Wood, Kanawha and Cabell counties asking them to stop placing students in single-gender classes. Kanawha and Cabell counties said they were ending their programs for logistical and administrative reasons.

Last November, the West Virginia Board of Education expressed its support of single-sex classrooms.



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