Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) military families, expressed deep concern over the way a transgender student is being discriminated against at a U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) elementary school at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. At the direction of DoDEA District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Dunham – and in direct disregard of guidance issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice – the transgender girl is being denied access to the restroom consistent with her gender identity.
“This superintendent’s decision to violate the civil rights of this transgender student is alarming,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “All students, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to be able to go to school in an environment free from discrimination and harassment. The Department of Defense school system is currently observing October as National Bullying Prevention Month, yet this superintendent has unacceptably chosen to single out and discriminate against a student because of her gender identity. Transgender youth already face high rates of marginalization, bullying, and harassment, and we urge the Director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, Mr. Thomas Brady, to immediately step in and correct this unconscionable decision.”
As reported today by NBC News, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense issued a statement late last night, saying, “In guidelines issued on May 13, 2016, the Departments of Education and Justice advised school districts to allow students who are transgender access to restroom facilities and other accommodations consistent with their gender identity.” The spokesperson went on to say, “Accordingly, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs will engage and reaffirm the guidance with schools and other facilities that provide services to school aged children.”
In May of this year, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released guidance to help schools ensure the civil rights of transgender students, including by ensuring they have access to restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. As stated in the release of the guidance, “Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.”
Discriminatory bathroom policies can have serious health consequences for transgender people who often avoid using public restrooms out of fear of violence and harassment. In an important survey on the impact these discriminatory policies have on transgender people, the Williams Institute found that “54 percent of all respondents reported having some sort of physical problem from trying to avoid using public restrooms, such as dehydration, kidney infections, and urinary tract infections.”
On Friday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter personally contacted Jess, the mother of the transgender girl, to let her know that he is stepping in “to set things right.” Read more about our victory via NBC News.