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Federal Investigation Opened Into Oklahoma School District After Student's Death

A photograph of Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died a day after a fight in a high school bathroom, is projected during a candlelight service at Point A Gallery, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024,

Federal officials have launched an investigation into an Oklahoma school district after the tragic death of a nonbinary 16-year-old high school student last month. The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter on Friday confirming the probe into Owasso High School, where the student, identified as Nex Benedict, was involved in a fight before passing away.

Benedict's family has alleged that the teen was a victim of bullying at the school. The student, who identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns, died a day after the altercation in a girl's bathroom at the school. The cause of death has not been officially disclosed by authorities, who have clarified that it was not a result of injuries sustained during the fight on February 8.

The investigation was initiated following a request from the Human Rights Campaign, which raised concerns about the school district's handling of sex-based harassment that may have contributed to Benedict's death. The Office for Civil Rights will examine whether the district failed to appropriately address alleged harassment incidents.

Owasso Public Schools acknowledged receipt of the investigation notice and expressed its commitment to cooperating with federal officials. The district has refuted the allegations, describing them as unsupported and without merit.

While details surrounding the fight remain undisclosed by authorities, Benedict's family has indicated that the student faced harassment due to their nonbinary identity. The Human Rights Campaign has urged swift action from the Department of Education to ensure justice for Nex and to enhance safety measures against bullying, harassment, and discrimination at Owasso High School and across Oklahoma.

Following the altercation, Benedict was taken to a hospital by family members and later sent home on the same day. However, paramedics were called to their residence the next day due to a medical emergency. Benedict was transported to the hospital's emergency room, where they subsequently passed away.

According to Benedict's mother, the teen sustained visible injuries to their face and eyes during the fight involving a transgender student and three other girls. The school district has stated that the altercation lasted less than two minutes before being intervened by fellow students and a staff member.

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