All transgender youth are allowed to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity in Defense Department programs and activities, according to a new DoD memo.

In an Oct. 26 memo to the services and to the Department of Defense Education Activity, Todd Weiler, assistant defense secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, said he has established a task force to establish procedures for implementing the guidance.

The memo follows Weiler's intervention in a case involving a transgender military child who was not allowed to use the girls' restroom at Ramstein Intermediate School, a DoD-run facility in Germany. As a result of an Oct. 21 meeting between Weiler and the chief of staff of DoDEA, the child can now use the restroom, and all transgender students in DoDEA schools will be allowed to use  the restroom with which they identify. 

The Oct. 26 memo makes it clear that DoD policy goes beyond bathrooms when it comes to access for all transgender students in all facilities on military bases. The services offer a variety of youth programs and activities.

Weiler referred to guidance from the departments of Justice and Education given to school districts in May, advising them of their obligations under law to allow transgender students to participate in activities and use restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. 

The law, Title IX, prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs, activities and facilities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. Those activities and facilities include restrooms, locker rooms, athletics, single-sex classes, housing and overnight accommodations, and more. Weiler noted that in a 2000 executive order, President Bill Clinton directed federal agencies that conduct educational activities to comply with Title IX.

"We have a responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all of the youth and students we serve," Weiler said in the memo. "I trust you will ensure that the policies and procedures of your Military Department, or DoDEA, as the case may be, are consistent with the [guidance from the departments of Justice and Education] and this memorandum."  

After the Justice and Education departments issued that May guidance, DoDEA officials told Military Times they are reviewing their practices for supporting transgender students. On July 29, DoDEA director Thomas Brady sent a memo to principals and superintendents informing them he had formed a civil rights working group to look at existing policies and regulations "to ensure that they address access, fairness, respect, privacy and safety for all DoDEA students, including transgender students."

There is no timeline for the completion of the work.

Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at  . 

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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