April 25, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Silence Surrounding Tragic Death of Nex Benedict Sparks Outrage, While Local Authorities React Belatedly

International Attention Forces Authorities to Address Non-binary Student’s Death

The disturbing death of 16-year-old non-binary student Nex Benedict in Owasso, Oklahoma, after a vicious fight in a school bathroom, which we reported on earlier this week, has become international news. Authorities in Owasso, the school, the school district, the police, and the superintendent of schools in Oklahoma, Ryan Walters, remained suspiciously silent since Benedict’s death on February 8 and the child’s burial on February 15.

It wasn’t until multiple stories from many different news outlets throughout the country started publishing stories questioning what really happened and the city’s silence that both the Owasso Police and Owasso Public Schools finally chose to release statements regarding Benedict’s death nearly two weeks after Nex Benedict’s death. 

After The Independent from the United Kingdom published an interview with Nex’s mother, Sue Benedict, which detailed the severe head injuries suffered by the teen, according to the Owasso Police Department, and the bruising that Sue Benedict saw on her child’s face, the Owasso Police issued further updates. While both of the original statements expressed that a student’s death was tragic and devasting, it still doesn’t explain their long silence that was only broken after national news reports began to appear. Local members of the community had been reacting angrily on authorities’ social media pages, but it took national and then an international furor to prompt what would be a somewhat normal reaction to such a tragedy. 

While the investigation update from the Owasso Police has stated that the coroner’s autopsy is complete, they have declined to release the results, citing pending toxicology reports and other ancillary testing results. They have claimed that Nex Benedict’s death was not the result of trauma and stated that the investigation is ongoing. 

However, a report from The Oklahoman has revealed that the Owasso Police sought a warrant to collect evidence from Owasso High School, including traces of blood and student property like cell phones and laptops. As quoted by The Oklahoman, Penny Hamrick, Owasso Police detective, the warrant said, “Owasso police officers suspect foul play involved and need to initiate an in-depth investigation into the death.”

The Oklahoman and The Independent both quote Nex’s family’s statement that they plan to conduct an independent investigation, and The Independent confirms that the other student with Nex was transgender. Nex Benedict had been subjected to bullying for a year that started shortly after the passage of a state bill that required students to use bathrooms that corresponded to their “sex at birth.” The bullying turned into violence on February 7. 

The Owasso Police Department, Owasso High School, Owasso School District, and Superintendent Ryan Walters have not responded to our multiple attempts to contact them for comment on this story. Chaya Raichik, the former real estate agent who created the Libs of TikTok social media account, was appointed to the Oklahoma State Library Advisory Committee by Ryan Walters, even though she apparently lives in New York. Raichik has been vocal on Twitter and denies that her social media posts had anything to do with this tragedy after being accused of inflaming LGBTQ+ hate. She has most recently posted a gleeful photo on Twitter where she gives the peace sign and states, “Good afternoon everyone! Even the haters, losers, and liars.” while making duck face. 

Raichik’s seemingly carefree pose could be seen as a mockery of one of Nex Benedict’s pictures, where the shyly smiling teen gives the peace sign to the camera. 

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Schools, finally issued a statement on Wednesday that does not mention Nex Benedict’s name, “The safety and security of our students is my top priority as well as the first responsibility of Oklahoma schools. I mourn the loss of our student in Owasso and pray for God’s comfort for the family and the entire Owasso community.

As part of Oklahoma’s comprehensive School-Based Mental Health Implementation, I have committed all available resources from OSDE to assist Owasso Public Schools during this tragedy and await the full results of the ongoing investigation of the incident by law enforcement.”

Governor Kevin Stitt also issued a belated statement: “Sarah and I are saddened to learn of the death of Nex Benedict, and our hearts go out to Nex’s family, classmates, and the Owasso community. The death of any child in an Oklahoma school is a tragedy— and bullies must be held accountable.

As we await the results of the investigation, I urge Owasso Police and Owasso Public Schools to be forthcoming and transparent with the public.”

in NEWS
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