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Nonbinary Oklahoma teen involved in high school fight died by suicide

Nex Benedict died a day after they were involved in a physical altercation with other high school students.
Nonbinary Oklahoma teen involved in high school fight died by suicide
Posted at 3:46 PM, Mar 13, 2024

Nex Benedict, the Oklahoma high schooler who passed away the day after a fight with other students, did not die as a direct result of the altercation, according to the state's medical examiner. 

The nonbinary 16-year-old's toxicology report indicates the manner of death was a suicide, with a probable cause listed as toxicity from combining diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, and fluoxetine, an SSRI often used to treat depression and other mental health issues.

Benedict's story has gained nationwide attention and outrage, particularly from LGBTQ+ groups who cited reports the student, who used they/them pronouns, had been bullied at school.

On Feb. 7, the teen was involved in a physical altercation between three female Owasso High School students in a girls' bathroom there. The group was in the room for less than two minutes before other students and staff broke them up, the school said. 

Benedict went to the hospital after, where their mother, Sue, called for police. In an interview with officers hours later, Benedict told police they had poured water on the three girls after the group had mocked them — something the student said the girls had previously done because of the way Benedict dressed. The teen said the girls then "came at" them, causing them to black out when their head hit the bathroom floor, Sue said to police. 

The following day, on Feb. 8, Sue called police again to report her child was exhibiting severe "posturing" symptoms, or involuntary movements and positioning of the body that can result from traumatic injury. In the 911 call, she also described the teen's breathing as shallow and said that although they did not take medication that morning, they would typically take anxiety medication at night. She said she wasn't sure if the symptoms were related to the fight.

Benedict was rushed to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

SEE MORE: After student Nex Benedict's death, Oklahoma police release video

Ahead of Wednesday's toxicology report, Owasso Police, who said they weren't made aware of the fight until Benedict's mother called them to the hospital, had noted preliminary autopsy results showed Benedict didn't die from trauma related to the fight.

A complete autopsy is expected to be released in 10 days, the medical examiner's office said.

"From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide," Owasso Police Department Lt. Nick Boatman said in a statement to the Associated Press. "However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiners Office."

Police say they're continuing to investigate Benedict's death, including conducting interviews with staff and students. Once completed, they said they will recommend any charges to the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office. 

In the meantime, though, other officials have gotten involved, while others have shared comments, largely about the safety of LGBTQ+ youth, or held vigils in Benedict's honor.

In a statement on Feb. 21, GLAAD called Benedict's death "tragic and senseless."

"Nex's death is a national wakeup call. Leaders and extremists must be held responsible for failing to keep Nex safe, and for encouraging violence. Every American must demand leaders stop legislating against vulnerable students and vow to protect them," the statement read.

Benedict's story has even reached the White House, with Vice President Kamala Harris saying in a post on X, "My heart goes out to Nex Benedict's family, friends, and their entire community. To the LGBTQI+ youth who are hurting and are afraid right now: President Joe Biden and I see you, we stand with you, and you are not alone."

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into Owasso Public Schools after the Human Rights Campaign drafted a formal complaint against the school, citing its alleged failed response to sex-based harassment. 

"We appreciate the Department of Education responding to our complaint and opening an investigation — we need them to act urgently so there can be justice for Nex, and so that all students at Owasso High School and every school in Oklahoma can be safe from bullying, harassment, and discrimination," HRC President Kelley Robinson said.

GoFundMe set up on behalf of Benedict's family has so far raised nearly $164,000, far exceeding its $15,000 goal. In the last update, published on Feb. 29, Sue Benedict said she had used some of the funds to buy a headstone and to fund her child's funeral, but would be dividing the rest of the money toward groups Benedict loved. 

"We are taking our time with this part of it because we want to make sure that many children benefit. No other child should suffer, we will work hard to do our part for NEX, LOVE NO HATE!!" the update read.

SEE MORE: School district investigated after Nex Benedict's death


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