Skip to Content

The death of an El Paso-born teen after a fight in school has LGBTQ+ advocates seeking answers

Originally Published: 21 FEB 24 14:55 ET

By Andy Rose, CNN

(CNN) — A 16-year-old student died following a fight at an Oklahoma high school – and as an investigation into the cause of death continues, advocates point to a heightened and hostile climate against the LGBTQ+ community.

Nex Benedict, whose family says the student identified as nonbinary, died February 8, one day after they told their family they and a transgender student were involved in a fight with others at Owasso High School. Police in Owasso are investigating. Nex lived in Oklahoma, but was born in El Paso, Texas, according to a obituary.

Sue Benedict, Nex’s guardian and biological grandmother, told The Independent Nex was badly beaten during the fight with three older girls in a bathroom at the school and hit their head on the floor. Benedict said Nex had experienced bullying at the school, but added, “I didn’t know how bad it had gotten.”

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be strong and look the other way, because these people don’t know who you are,’” Benedict told The Independent.

Owasso police confirmed in a statement the student was “rushed back to a hospital” the day after the incident and pronounced dead.

The police department told CNN their investigation is underway, and they will not release more information on the case until the medical examiner’s office has determined a cause of death. CNN confirmed the medical examiner’s report is not yet complete.

“It is not known at this time if this latest medical incident is related to the previous incident or not,” Owasso police said, referring to the altercation at the school. The department also said, “No report of the fight was made to Owasso Police prior to the notification at the hospital.”

Nex was a 10th grader and used they/them pronouns, according to their family. “Nex did not see themselves as male or female,” Benedict told The Independent. CNN has reached out to the family for comment.

Details emerge of alleged bullying

A family member shared text messages from Nex written shortly after the incident with CNN affiliate KOKI.

“I got jumped at school. 3 on 1, had to go to the ER,” the message said. The text exchange said the girls involved in the fight “had been bullying me and my friends and I got tired of it so I poured some water on them and all 3 came after me.”

In the exchange, Nex said that they had bruises from the fight and had gotten pain medication. They also wrote, “If I’m still dizzy and nauseous in the morning I might have a concussion.”

From the text messages, it is unclear what the alleged bullying was about.

Nex’s death comes after advocates have strongly criticized Oklahoma officials for actions perceived as targeting LGBTQ+ residents.

The state legislature passed a “bathroom bill” in 2022 requiring all preK-12 schools to require students use the restroom and locker rooms of the sex designated on their birth certificates. Last year, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order requiring government agencies to identify people according to their sex at birth rather than their gender identity.

Owasso Public Schools said Tuesday it cannot share all details about the incident, but confirmed a “physical altercation occurred in a restroom” that was broken up by other students and a staff member. The district said no ambulance was called, but “it was recommended to one parent that their student visit a medical facility for further examination.”

The school district said, “Due to federal privacy laws, we are unable to disclose the exact nature of disciplinary action taken against any student.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said “all available resources” will be provided to the school district.

“The safety and security of our students is my top priority as well as the first responsibility of Oklahoma schools,” Walters said in a statement issued Tuesday. “I mourn the loss of our student in Owasso and pray for God’s comfort for the family and the entire Owasso community.”

A “thorough, open investigation into the matter” has been demanded, according to a joint statement Tuesday from Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Oklahoma.

A GoFundMe has been established on behalf of Nex and their family.

CNN’s Taylor Romine and Caroll Alvarado contributed to this report.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

CNN Newsource


KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content