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The Story of Nex Benedict

When an Unpolitical Death Becomes Political
Tammy Livingston Duffield
A candle like those held at the nationwide vigils.

Nex Benedict was a 16-year old nonbinary student who went to school at Owasso High School in Oklahoma. On February 7, this student went to the restroom at their school. There, they were harassed by three fellow students, and Nex tipped water on them in response, triggering a physical altercation. During the fight, they were knocked to the ground and hit their head on the floor. They were taken to the hospital, given an MRI, and discharged. The next day Nex collapsed, stopped breathing, and passed away. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office has declared it a suicide based on toxicology reports.

Other students and a teacher intervened to stop the fight, and all students involved walked to the principal’s and nurse’s office, reportedly of their own choice. One of the students who defended Nex was a fellow trans student. All students involved were given a health assessment, and the schools decided that an ambulance was not necessary but suggested that Nex’s guardian take them to the hospital themself. Sue Benedict, their grandmother and guardian, was outraged that the ambulance was not called as Nex had bruises on their face. Sue was also informed by the school that Nex would be suspended for two weeks. We don’t know if the other students got suspended or not. Unfortunately they didn’t live long enough to go back to school.

According to the Owasso Police Department, “On February 7th, 2024, at approximately 3:30 p.m., the Owasso Police Department was summoned to a local hospital in reference to a report of a student who had been involved in a physical altercation at the Owasso High School prior to the end of school that day. No report of the incident was made to the Owasso Police Department prior to the notification at the hospital. Information was taken by a School Resource Officer who responded to the hospital. On February 8th, 2024, the Owasso Police Department was made aware that the juvenile was rushed back to a hospital, where the student was pronounced dead. It is not known at this time if the death is related to the incident at the school or not. A thorough investigation is being conducted by Owasso Police Detectives who are currently awaiting an autopsy report and toxicology results.” No charges or arrests have been made, and the police suggested that the family not file a report as it would open up the family to legal liability. They have since received a search warrant for the school.

Owasso High School stated that “physical altercations between students are unacceptable. Any student/s engaging in such action, jeopardizing the safety of others, will receive disciplinary consequences. These consequences can include out-of-school suspension for a first offense. Due to federal privacy laws, we are unable to disclose the exact nature of disciplinary action taken against any student. That information can only be given to the parents/guardians of the student being disciplined. Any notion that the district has ignored disciplinary action toward those involved is simply untrue.” They also stated that counseling services are being given to students and staff. Dozens of students walked out in protest to the school’s perceived inaction.

Oklahoma City news anchor Wendy Suares posted on X that she was “heartbroken to learn about the non-binary student who was beate[n] to death at their Owasso school. That same district was targeted by the self-described ‘stochastic terrorist’ who runs Libs of TikTok. Chaya Raichik now sits on OK’s library advisory board,” Chaya Raichik is most well known for her political ideologies and anti-trans rhetoric, and runs Libs of TikTok. It is interesting to see her as an Oklahoman politician despite not living in Oklahoma. Raichik also claims that Nex was released from the hospital and that no one was killed at school. She was appointed by Ryan Walters, who claimed that trans students are a threat in schools.

Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt said “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.” Stitt has been notorious for signing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

Oklahoma senator Tom Woods said “we are a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma … I support my constituency, and like I said, we’re a Christian state, and we are tired of having that shoved down our throat at every turn. I’ll let my words [spoken here] speak for theirselves (sic), but that is my statement, and I stand behind it, and I stand behind the Republican Party values, and that is my statement.”

Reverend Ashleigh R. Mitchell responded by referring to the article, “Traditional Sources Against Prohibiting Trans Jews From Transitioning Gender,” an article by Rabbi Rona Matlow, have tried to counter it. However, the article, while claiming it is a biblical prohibition to obstruct gender transition, uses more Jewish sources than Christian and makes some leaps of judgment.

According to Reverend Mitchell said, “So, any so-called religious person who thinks they are doing the right thing by prohibiting kids (or anyone else) from transitioning gender REALLY needs to go back and learn their Bible.  Any questions? Good…”

Nex Benedict was born January 11 in El Paso, Texas. They have been raised by their grandmother since they were two years old along with five other children, as their father was in prison and had relinquished all rights for them. Nex was close with several members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, who attended Nex’s adoption ceremony. Their family holds great pride in their Choctaw heritage. After their death, there was confusion about the identity of this student, but Sue confirmed that it was Next Benedict who had passed, and that they were nonbinary and used they/them pronouns. They were an animal lover, especially towards Zeus, their pet cat. They loved to cook and would often make up recipes. He played Ark and Minecraft. They were a straight A student.

Texts between Nex and a family member were leaked saying that they tipped water over three girls who bullied them and “got jumped” and felt “dizzy and nauseous.” Sue later confirmed that these texts were true but published without the family’s permission.

Sue said “I was very open with my children to be who and what they thought was best … They could talk to me about anything, as long as that respect goes both ways. A child needs to figure out who they are and what they want to be, and you cannot force it upon them … Nex did not see themselves as male or female … Nex saw themselves right down the middle. I was still learning about it, Nex was teaching me that … Nex had a light in them that was so big, they had so many dreams. I want their light to keep shining for everyone … That light was so big and bright and beautiful, and I want everyone to remember Nex that way.”

Sue stated that “we at this time are thankful for the ongoing support and did not expect the love from everyone. We are sorry for not using their name correctly and as parents we were still learning the correct forms. Please do not judge us as Nex was judged, please do not bully us for our ignorance on the subject. Nex gave us that respect and we are sorry in our grief that we overlooked them. I lost my child, the headstone will have correct name of their choice. The rest of monies will go to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex Benedict’s name. God bless.”

Donations in Nex’s name can be made to Bikers Against Child Abuse or to this GoFundMe page. The money from the GoFundMe page was used for their funeral expenses and is now being put towards, as Sue Benedict said, “to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex Benedict’s name.” Part of the March Madness fundraiser’s profit will go to this fundraiser.

Sources: The Advocate, The Independent, KJRH, The New York PostNPRTahlequa Daily Press

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About the Contributor
Alix Bennett
Alix Bennett, Author
Hi! My name's Alix Bennett, and I like frogs (hence the frog hat🐸). I am currently a high school student here at Palestine High School as well as a dual credit student at LTC, and a summer volunteer at George Rogers Clark National Historic Park. I want to be an ecologist, as well as a writer and artist on the side. My favorite artist is Pidgin Dolls, and my favorite musicians are Penelope Scott, cavetown, and Skydxddy. I'm a Neopagan, which means my religion is based on natural cycles and the spirits thereof. My pronouns are She/Her. I'm a huge Pokemon and DnD fan, and I love learning about all kinds of things, such as frogs, insects, mushrooms, frogs, plants, geology, frogs, space, history, frogs, and other subjects. And also frogs. I like frogs. I want to be needlessly kind. If people can needlessly hate strangers, I can needlessly love strangers.

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