LGBTQ Student Cause of Death Ruled As Suicide

( – In a recent revelation that has deeply impacted both the community and advocates nationwide, the tragic death of a young Oklahoma student, Nex Benedict, has been officially declared a suicide by a medical examiner.

This 16-year-old individual, who identified as transgender and used he/they pronouns, tragically passed away on February 8th, the day following a confrontation at Owasso High School. Nex’s untimely demise has since ignited significant discussion among LGBTQ+ activists. They argue that the proliferation of legislative measures targeting the LGBTQ+ community has substantially escalated the vulnerabilities faced by queer and trans students in educational settings.

Friends and relatives of Nex shared that he had encountered bullying at school, which he attributed to his gender identity. Disturbingly, body-camera footage obtained from police in the aftermath of the altercation at the school depicts Nex in a hospital bed, recounting to an officer how he was assaulted by three students. According to Nex, the attack occurred after he retaliated against the bullies with water for their harassment towards him and his friend, specifically targeting their appearance.

In the wake of this incident, the Owasso Police Department disclosed preliminary findings from an autopsy on February 21st, suggesting that Nex’s death was not directly caused by physical trauma sustained during the fight. This statement was later refined to clarify that the altercation had not been entirely dismissed as a contributing factor to his death. The medical examiner pinpointed the cause of death as “combined toxicity” from two drugs, one available over-the-counter and the other by prescription, marking a heartbreaking conclusion to the young life of Nex Benedict.

Following the release of the medical examiner’s findings, the Owasso Police Department expressed, through a statement on their Facebook page, that early indicators had pointed towards suicide as the cause of death. However, they awaited the final analysis from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office before confirming such a conclusion.

Margaret Coates, the superintendent of Owasso Public Schools, acknowledged the cause of death and reached out to the student body, urging those troubled by the news to seek support through school counseling services. Coates emphasized the profound loss felt within the “Ram Family” and the broader community, recognizing the complex emotions stirred by this revelation.

In response to Nex’s death and the circumstances surrounding it, students at Owasso High School orchestrated a walkout on February 26th to protest against what they perceive as a widespread and unchecked bullying culture. Kane, a student involved in organizing the protest and who identifies as nonbinary, stressed that regardless of the direct cause of Nex’s death, the underlying issue of bullying needs to be addressed. To Kane, and many others, the tragedy underscores a broader issue affecting numerous students who have faced similar harassment.

This tragic event underscores the significant challenges and risks faced by LGBTQ+ youth, particularly trans and nonbinary individuals. Research, including a 2022 survey by The Trevor Project, highlights the alarmingly high rates of suicidal ideation within the LGBTQ+ community, with trans and nonbinary youths reporting even higher incidences. This survey, which involved around 28,000 participants aged 13-24, revealed that more than 40% had seriously considered suicide in the past year, including a staggering 20% of transgender respondents who had attempted suicide.

The aftermath of Nex’s death also saw the Department of Education initiating an inquiry into whether Owasso High School failed to adequately address sex-based harassment, prompted by a complaint from the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

Although Owasso Public Schools contested the merits of the investigation, the call for a thorough review into the circumstances leading to Nex’s death remains a critical discourse among advocates and the community. Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign, emphasized the collective failure that led to Nex’s untimely departure, advocating for continued investigation and action to prevent such tragedies in the future.