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School district investigated after Nex Benedict's death

The Human Rights Campaign said the 2SLGBTQI+ community is still awaiting answers following the nonbinary student's death.
School district investigated after Nex Benedict's death
Posted at 8:11 AM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-04 09:11:11-05

The U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into Owasso Public Schools in Oklahoma after the death of 16-year-old high school student Nex Benedict.

In a letter from the DOE to Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, the department said it opened an investigation into the alleged failed response to sex-based harassment by Owasso Public Schools.

The response came after HRC drafted a formal complaint against the school. HRC said Robinson wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging that the department help prevent other situations like this from happening again.

“Nex’s family, community, and the broader 2SLGBTQI+ (two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex+) community in Oklahoma are still awaiting answers following their tragic loss," Robinson said. "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.”

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Owasso Public Schools responded to the investigation in a statement to Scripps News Tulsa.

"The district is committed to cooperating with federal officials and believes the complaint submitted by HRC is not supported by the facts and is without merit," the statement read, in part. 

Benedict died unexpectedly on Feb. 8, one day after being involved in a fight at school. The Owasso Police Department said it is waiting on toxicology and autopsy reports before releasing a cause of death. 

Officials have released few details about what led to Benedict's death. Benedict was nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. 

In a surveillance video released by police, students are seen picking up chairs in the cafeteria and a security guard is seen walking in the direction of the school nurse's office along with Nex. 

Then the video shows Nex leaving with a parent. 

At the end of the video, there is audio of a 911 call in which Sue Benedict called police again on Feb. 8 and said Nex was exhibiting severe "posturing" symptoms, including "hands curling" and "eyes rolling back." 

Reporting from Scripps News Tulsa was used in this story.


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