Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Settlement Ends Single-Sex Classes in Wood County, West VIrginia

A federal court in West Virginia recently approved a consent decree between the ACLU and the Wood County Board of Education, which prohibits the Board from reinstituting single-sex education in core classes at Van Devender Middle School.  Last summer, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents whose children were assigned to single sex classes.  A federal court granted the ACLU's preliminary injunction after determining it was likely they would prevail in the argument that the program violates the requirements under Title IX that single sex education be "completely voluntary."  Wood County's was not, because parents had to opt their children out, rather than opt in.  The court's opinion also emphasized that single-sex public education must be able to withstand heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.  It cannot be rooted in stereotypes and pseudoscience, as Van Devender's program appears to have been. 

This decision paved the way for the eventual settlement, approved Monday, that prohibits the Board from instituting single-sex classes for two years.  For the following three years after that, the Board can only implement single-sex classes after it provides notice to the plaintiffs and receives approval from the court, a valuable prophylactic against the Board's future implementation of another mandatory, broad, and poorly justified single-sex education program.