Bullied Nonbinary Teen Dies After Alleged Assault By Students In Oklahoma

Sixteen-year-old Nex Benedict died the day after a "physical altercation" at their high school.

A nonbinary student died earlier this month after they were allegedly assaulted by their peers in a bathroom at their Oklahoma school.

The Owasso Police Department said that 16-year-old Nex Benedict was treated at a hospital on Feb. 7 after a “physical altercation” at Owasso High School. The police said they had not received a report about the incident prior to being notified by the hospital about it.

Benedict was allegedly beaten by three girls in the girls’ bathroom and suffered severe head injuries after being knocked to the ground, according to the Independent. Their mother, Sue Benedict, told the news site that Nex was covered in bruises on their face and eyes and had scratches on the back of their head.

After being treated and discharged from the hospital, the teen returned home and went to sleep with a sore head, their mother said. The next day, Nex Benedict was rushed to the hospital after collapsing in their living room, where they were pronounced dead that evening.

Sue Benedict told the Independent that Nex had been bullied since early last year, not long after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a law requiring students to use bathrooms that align with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“As we continue to mourn the loss of this student, our hearts go out to their family and they will continue to be in our prayers. We are here to support them and everyone who has been affected by this situation,” Owasso Public Schools wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

In an update on Tuesday, the police department said that a “thorough investigation is being conducted by Owasso Police Detectives who are currently awaiting an autopsy report and toxicology results.”

No charges have been filed against anyone involved in the incident, as Nex Benedict’s cause of death has yet to be determined by the state medical examiner’s office.

According to the Independent, a teacher who Nex Benedict admired was featured on Libs of TikTok, a far-right X (formerly Twitter) account known for posting anti-transgender content. Posts from the account have led to threats against schools, libraries and other public establishments across the country. The teacher, already facing a backlash over their TikTok videos, resigned on the same day the Libs of TikTok account tweeted about them, according to local media.

Chaya Raichik operates the Libs of TikTok account. On Tuesday, she rejected speculation about the connection to Nex Benedict, arguing Libs of TikTok only posted about the teacher after he resigned.

LGBTQ organizations, such as Freedom Oklahoma, say that Raichik, who currently serves on the state’s library advisory committee, uses her platform in a way that “leads others to threaten real harm to Oklahoma kids.” In a statement, the Oklahoma organization described the incident prior to Nex’s death as a “possible hate-motivated attack.”

The U.S. has seen an onslaught of legislation targeting transgender people in the U.S., ranging from bans on gender affirming care to restrictions on bathroom use, such as the law in Oklahoma.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a total of 437 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced or passed in the U.S. so far in 2024, following more 500 introduced in 2023. It’s a pattern that has prompted the Human Rights Campaign to declare a state of emergency for LGBTQ people.

The organization has also raised alarm in recent years about anti-trans violence. A Human Rights Campaign report published in November found that at least 33 transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans had been killed in the past year.

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