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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Léonie Chao-Fong

Oklahoma students walk out over death of non-binary teen Nex Benedict

Nex Benedict.
Nex Benedict died the day after a fight in Owasso high school bathroom in which the student said they were a target of bullying. Photograph: Sue Benedict/AP

Dozens of students at an Oklahoma high school walked out in a peaceful demonstration on Monday to show support for the LGBTQ+ community after the death of a non-binary teenager following a fight in a school bathroom in which they said they were a target of bullying.

Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old student who identified as non-binary and used they/them pronouns, died on 8 February after a “physical altercation” with classmates in the bathroom of Owasso high school, according to local law enforcement.

Body camera footage later released by police showed Benedict describing the altercation with three girls who were picking on them and some friends.

At least 40 students at Owasso high school walked out to protest what they described as a pervasive culture of bullying with little accountability, NBC reported. “I just want to get the word out and show these kids that we’re here,” Cassidy Brown, a Owasso graduate and organizer of the demonstration, told KTUL. “There is a community here in this city that does exist, and we see them, and they are loved.”

Vigils have been held in honor of Benedict across Oklahoma and the country, including on Sunday night when hundreds gathered at Redbud Festival Park in Owasso for the teen. Many of the gatherings were organized by LGBTQ+ groups to protest against the frequent bullying suffered by non-binary teens.

“Our children are scared to death and go to school every day, and something has to stop,” one Owasso parent, Susie Eubank, said. “My child has had direct threats. Direct derogatory names.”

Benedict’s mother, Sue Benedict, said in an interview with the Independent that her child had faced bullying by other students because of their gender identity. The bullying began shortly after the Oklahoma governor, Kevin Stitt, signed a bill that prohibits transgender public school students from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Police have said Benedict’s death was not a result of injuries suffered in the fight in the bathroom, based on the preliminary results of the autopsy. No arrests have been made in connection with Benedict’s death.

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