Oklahoma students stage walkout in protest over trans teen Nex Benedict’s death

Owasso High School students walked out of class in solidarity with gender non-confirming community after Nex Benedict’s death

Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 27 February 2024 19:02 GMT
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US: Vigils Held Nationwide For Non-Binary Teen Nex Benedict

More than a dozen former classmates of nonbinary Oklahoma student Nex Benedict staged a walkout on Monday to protest bullying and show support for the school’s LGBTQ community.

Students at Owasso High School in Oklahoma demanded action to curb discrimination towards gender non-confirming students after the 16-year-old was beaten unconscious inside a school bathroom on 7 February. They died the following day, and the cause of death remains unknown.

Students and advocates displayed signs that stated “You Are Loved” and “Protect Queer Kids” as they gathered at an intersection across from the school in the Tulsa suburbs.

“There is a community here in this city that does exist, and we see them, and they are loved,” organiser Cassidy Brown, an Owasso graduate, told KTUL.

The protest came amid nationwide vigils to honour Nex’s memory across Oklahoma state, and in Los Angeles, New York and Texas.

“It is appalling and shameful that Nex Benedict endured a year of anti-LGBTQ harassment, then a brutal beating in the school bathroom,” the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD said in a statement. 

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

Owasso Public Schools have come under intense criticism for not reporting the fight to police or seeking emergency medical treatment for Nex.

A parent told KTUL that their child had received threats in the fallout from Nex’s death.

“Our children are scared to death and go to school every day, and something has to stop,” Susie Eubank told the ABC affiliate.

Nex, whose family say used them/they pronouns, died one day after a fight with three girls inside a high school restroom. Nex had been bullied at the school for being openly nonbinary, their mother Sue Benedict told The Independent.

An Owasso police spokesperson has said an autopsy indicated that Nex’s death was not a result of physical trauma, but they are yet to release the full report as they await the results of toxicology tests.

The Owasso Police Department released a 21 minutes of bodycam footage showing an officer interviewing Nex in hospital after they were involved in a bathroom fight.

Nex appeared alert while telling the officer that they poured water on three girls who had been bullying their friends for “the way that we dress”.

The police school resource officer tells Nex and mother Ms Benedict that Owasso Public Schools had “dropped the ball” by not reporting the fight.

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on Monday to honour nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict
Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village on Monday to honour nonbinary Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict (Bevan Hurley / The Independent)

Nex’s death after has led to widespread condemnation of Oklahoma lawmakers, who have introduced more than 50 anti-LGBTQ bills in the current legislative session.

Nex’s family are conducting an independent investigation into the death, and said that the facts surrounding the case are “troubling at best”.

At a vigil in New York on Monday, nonbinary actor Sara Ramirez told a crowd of around 500 people that an “infrastructure of anti-trans hate” had contributed to Nex’s death.

Ramirez called out celebrities, lawmakers and social media influencers for fostering a culture of hatred and intolerance toward nonbinary youth.

“It is our moral and humanitarian obligation to speak up, show up and take action against the anti-trans machine. To all of our trans, nonbinary and queer youth, I want to say I love you.”

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