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Lawmaker blasts education board and Libs of TikTok after Nex Benedict’s death: ‘Blood on your hands’

‘I am humiliated and embarrassed for everyone who showed up today,’ Sean Cummings tells Oklahoma state education after Nex Benedict’s death

Bevan Hurley
Friday 23 February 2024 18:58 GMT
Oklahoma teen dies after brutal assault inside school bathroom

An Oklahoma city council member has accused the state’s board of education and Libs of TikTok influencer Chaya Raichik of having “blood on your hands” over the death of nonbinary student Nex Benedict.

Sean Cummings, the vice-mayor of The Village, a suburb of Oklahoma City, told members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education at a Thursday hearing that they had “emboldened” bullying and hatred towards the LGBTQ community and that that discourse may have led to Nex’s death.

“You emboldened these three girls yourself,” Mr Cummings said. “Chaya Raichik emboldened these three girls by being on the library board. It’s already difficult to be in high school. It’s very difficult to be different.”

Nex, 16, died on 7 February, one day after their family say they got into a fight with three girls in a bathroom at Owasso High School, after being bullied for their gender fluid identity.

Mr Cummings told The Independent in an interview afterwards that he felt compelled to speak at the meeting even though his wife Cathy Cummings, a former mayor of The Village, had died earlier this month.

At the Thursday board meeting, Mr Cummings said that the rhetoric from the education board Mr Walters had been “partially responsible” for emboldening bullies to attack Nex in a school bathroom.

“Three older girls don’t just jump a 16-year-old in a bathroom for no apparent reason, especially when they’re from the alphabet community, who you personally have attacked ever since you ran for office,” Mr Cummings said, in a reference to Nex identifying as LGBTQ.

Nex Benedict, 16, died one day after being assaulted in a bathroom at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, police say (GoFundme)

Superintendent Walters, who was in attendance at the meeting, appointed anti-LGBTQ activist Ms Raichik to a state library advisory board in January.

“You and worthless ass Chaya Raychick literally have blood on your hands,” Cummings told Oklahoma’s superintendent of public schools Ryan Walters.

Ms Raichik, who is New York-based, runs the Libs of TikTok social media account and posts edited, anti-trans videos that target LGBTQ friendly public school teachers and librarians.

“And you brought in the chief attacker of this, Chaya Raichik. It’s on you,” Mr Cummings said directly to Superintendent Walters.

A video of Mr Cummings’ remarks was posted to X/Twitter by an OKC Fox reporter.

Nex’s death remains under investigation by police. Initial autopsy results indicate they did not die from trauma, Owasso police say.

In a statement, the Benedict family said Nex was “attacked and assaulted in a bathroom by a group of other students”.

Sean Cummings, an Oklahoma councillor, with his late wife Cathy, who passed away earlier this month (Courtesy of Sean Cummings)

Nex’s mother Sue Benedict told The Independent in an interview this week that they had been bullied due to their nonbinary identity for more than a year.

Cummings said he believed the school board was liable in creating an atmosphere of anti-trans rhetoric that helped possibly lead to Nex’s death.

“I think what you’re looking at now is a federal lawsuit for each one of you personally and I hope it happens because it will bankrupt you,” Mr Cummings told the board members in the room.

“Did I not tell you this was going to happen? And I’m sure when I leave here Chaya Raichik will tweet my stuff out again and I’ll get death threats again. That’s who you brought into the room.

“You have no deniability here. It is a pattern, Forrest Gump could see the pattern.

“I am humiliated and embarrassed for everyone who showed up today.”

Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters appointed Chaya Raichik to a library advisory board in January (Associated Press)

The Independent has contacted Ms Raichik and the Oklahoma State Department of Education for comment.

LGBTQ advocacy groups in Oklahoma have linked Nex’s death to the rise of hateful rhetoric and anti-trans legislation that the state legislature has passed.

Freedom Oklahoma described Nex’s death as a possible “hate-motivated attack”, while the Oklahoma Pride Alliance blamed the “hateful rhetoric spewed by leaders in our state”.

Mr Cummings told The Independent that he had shown up to speak at the meeting to call out Ms Raichik and Superintendent Walters.

“Nex’s death is life-changing for everybody involved, and it’s made okay because of the rhetoric of those two individuals and that just pours downstream and these kids are drinking that water,” he said.

Mr Cummings, who owns an Irish bar in Oklahoma City, said he was targeted by Ms Raichik in January after criticising her appointment to the library committee.

Sean Cummings, the vice mayor of The Village in Oklahoma, made an impassioned speech at a State Board of Education meeting about the death of Nex Benedict on 22 February (Payton May / X / Screenshot)

The Oklahoman reported that Mr Cummings raised an August 2023 incident where the Libs of TikTok account posted the work location of an Oklahoma librarian, who was later the subject of bomb threats.

Mr Cummings told The Independent that the “keyboard cowboys” didn’t scare him, and that he often felt like a lone voice standing up for LGBTQ rights in such a “red state”.

“I’m a dad, I have a dog at home. I don’t have anyone at home. If anybody wants to come after me they can come after me.”

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