Students walk out over nonbinary student Nex Benedict’s death, anti-LGBTQ bullying in Oklahoma

At Owasso High School in Oklahoma, where nonbinary student Nex Benedict got in a fight with several other students the day before they died, students walked out Monday in protest of bullying and in support of the school’s 2SLGBTQ community.

“Our children are scared to death and go to school every day, and something has to stop,” one Owasso parent, Susie Eubank, told Tulsa ABC affiliate KTUL. “My child has had direct threats. Direct derogatory names.”

“I just want to get the word out and show these kids that we’re here,” Cassidy Brown, who graduated from Owasso and helped organize the demonstration, told KTUL. “There is a community here in this city that does exist, and we see them, and they are loved.”

Anti-LGBTQ bullying and violence have been the center of conversation in the aftermath of Nex’s death earlier this month, as the Benedict family and the local 2SLGBTQ community continue to mourn with vigils and memorials across the state and country.

“Together, we can send a strong message that bullying is not acceptable and that we stand with those who have experienced it,” read a post from the Trans Advocacy Coalition of Oklahoma, which helped organize the event.

Nex Benedict died one day after a physical altercation with three other students. Police have said Nex Benedict’s death was not a result of physical trauma from the altercation. Authorities are awaiting the full results of the autopsy and toxicology reports for more insight into the circumstances surrounding the 16-year-old’s death. The state medical examiner’s office will determine final cause and manner of death.

PHOTO: Community members participate in a candlelight vigil for Nex Benedict in Tulsa, OK, Feb. 25, 2024.

Community members participate in a candlelight vigil for Nex Benedict in Tulsa, OK, Feb. 25, 2024.

Nick Oxford/AP

In newly released body camera footage, Nex Benedict can be seen at a local hospital lying on a gurney in the hours after the Feb. 7 fight at Owasso High School.

While lying on a gurney, Nex Benedict told a school resource officer they had poured water on three students who were making fun of the way they and their friends dressed and laughed, the footage released Friday by the Owasso Police Department shows.

“And so I went up there and I poured water on them. And then all three of them came at me,” the teen said in the 21-minute video about the students they had an altercation with.

“They came at me, they grabbed on my hair. I grabbed on them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser. And then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground, started beating the s— out of me,” Nex Benedict said. “And then my friends tried to jump in and help but I’m not sure, I blacked out.”

Nex said they didn’t know the students’ names but that the group had been “antagonizing” them in the days leading up to the incident.

When asked by school resource officer Caleb Thompson why they didn’t alert school administrators, they said they “didn’t really see the point” but had told their mother.

Nex Benedict’s family has called for action and answers concerning the bullying they say Nex faced in school.

“The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy,” the family said via their attorney in a statement to ABC News.

The family said Nex Benedict’s bullying had begun after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, citing safety concerns, signed a bill into law in May 2022 that barred transgender and gender-expansive youth from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Owasso Public Schools declined to comment on the investigation into the teen’s death but told ABC News in a statement Thursday that the “safety and security of our students is our top priority and we are committed to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.”

“Bullying in any form is unacceptable,” the statement read. “We take reports of bullying very seriously and have policies and procedures in place to address such behavior.”

PHOTO: Nex Benedict, 16, died one day after a physical altercation with other students in their Oklahoma school.

Nex Benedict, 16, died one day after a physical altercation with other students in their Oklahoma school.

Courtesy Sue Benedict

More than 50 anti-LGBTQ bills are currently up for consideration in the Oklahoma Legislature, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Stitt has also banned the use of nonbinary gender markers on IDs, restricted gender-affirming care for trans youth and banned transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports, citing concerns about fairness.

Critics of the bills, including several local lawmakers, say this legislation has led to further discrimination against and marginalization of the 2SLGBTQ community in the state. Federal security officials have also continuously expressed concerns about growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the United States amid a rise in similar bills across the country.

“Seeing bill after bill targeting people, targeting their right to exist and ignoring real problems in Oklahoma is difficult,” state Rep. Amanda Swope said during a Sunday vigil for Nex. “I feel like there’s nothing that we could say up here as legislators that will provide solace in this moment, but know that we’re there for you and that we are again ready to stand and hold people accountable.”

The Human Rights Campaign has demanded federal investigations into whether protections for LGBTQ students were violated in Nex Benedict’s case. The organization sent letters to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice asking for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Nex’s death.

The DOJ declined ABC News’ request for comment.

The incident has also struck a chord nationwide with 2SLGBTQ groups and allies who are demanding answers regarding the circumstances around Nex Benedict’s death. 2SLGBTQ includes Two Spirit, an umbrella term used to describe a third gender in Native and Indigenous communities. Sue Benedict is a registered member of the Choctaw Nation.

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