Oklahoma medical examiner rules Nex Benedict died by suicide

  • by Brody Levesque, Washington Blade
  • Wednesday March 13, 2024
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The Oklahoma medical examiner's office has concluded that 16-year-old Nex Benedict died by suicide. Photo: Courtesy Benedict family<br>
The Oklahoma medical examiner's office has concluded that 16-year-old Nex Benedict died by suicide. Photo: Courtesy Benedict family

The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has released part of the results of the investigation into the February 8 death of Nex Benedict, concluding the a 16-year-old transgender teenager who had experienced bullying at his high school died by suicide.

The February 7 assault in a high school restroom involving Benedict made national headlines.

(NBC News previously reported that according to Benedict's friends, the teen used he/him pronouns.)

KOTV/KQCW in Tulsa reported Wednesday afternoon that the medical examiner's report disclosed that Benedict died by suicide and did not die as a direct result of trauma from the physical altercation at Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma.

Page one of the report states that Benedict's death was caused by an overdose of Benadryl and Prozac. The full medical examiner's report will be released on March 27, KOTV/KQCW also reported.

After a year of being bullied over his trans identity, Benedict was involved in a fight in a bathroom in early February in which three girls allegedly beat him. Police and media reports stated that Benedict's head was "banged into the floor." Benedict's mother substantiated the reports in an interview with British media outlet the Independent. The school reportedly did not call an ambulance for the teen and he was taken to hospital by his grandmother and was discharged from the hospital later that evening.

"As an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering LGBTQ+ youth, we are truly saddened by the loss of Nex Benedict," Lance Preston, executive director at Rainbow Youth Project USA, told the Washington Blade. "It is heartbreaking to see a young life cut short due to the harmful effects of bullying. Our hearts go out to Nex's family and loved ones during this difficult time."

"It is crucial for schools to recognize the profound impact of bullying on the mental health and well-being of students," Preston noted. "We call on educators, administrators and policymakers to prioritize the implementation of anti-bullying measures and support systems that create a culture of acceptance and respect within educational institutions."

"The loss of Nex Benedict serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of unchecked harassment, bullying and discrimination across the nation," Preston added.

Owasso police released body camera footage, school security camera footage, and 911 calls from their investigation into the incident.

The public response to Benedict's death has been overwhelming, with thousands of messages to police, the school, and members of the media, KOTV/KQCW noted.

In a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Shannon Minter, a trans man who is the legal director for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights said, "This news is crushing and must be a wake-up call to our country: Enough is enough. The political targeting of transgender people is deadly and must be stopped. It is past time to hold the public officials and leaders who are promulgating hatred and lies about vulnerable young people and their families fully accountable for the terrible harm they are causing."

In an emailed statement, GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said:

"There is nothing in this one-page document to explain why the medical examiner checked a box. Media must have learned by now that they need to continue to question what they get from law enforcement and government entities in Oklahoma that have so far failed to protect vulnerable students and responsibly provide any information that is critical for student safety. Nex Benedict's family and the entire state of Oklahoma deserve far more answers and accountability from those charged with keeping Nex and all youth safe.

"What remains true: Nex Benedict and all LGBTQ and Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-nonconforming (2STGNC+) youth deserve a world that fights for them to be themselves, to be free from state-sponsored bullying and discrimination. All media reporting on Nex's death and the behavior of public officials before, during, and after Nex's death, must continue to demand accountability from state leaders about how they are working to protect all youth from harm and when they will stop their relentless attacks proven to cause harm," Ellis added.

"Our hearts remain with Nex's family and all who grieve this horrific loss and the unacceptable violence that preceded it. It remains imperative that school environments reject bullying in all its forms," she stated.

President Joe Biden issued a statement March 14.

"Jill and I are heartbroken by the recent loss of Nex Benedict," Biden stated. "Every young person deserves to have the fundamental right and freedom to be who they are, and feel safe and supported at school and in their communities. Nex Benedict, a kid who just wanted to be accepted, should still be here with us today.

"Nonbinary and transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know," the president continued. "But nobody should have to be brave just to be themselves. In memory of Nex, we must all recommit to our work to end discrimination and address the suicide crisis impacting too many nonbinary and transgender children. Bullying is hurtful and cruel, and no one should face the bullying that Nex did. Parents and schools must take reports of bullying seriously. My prayers are with Nex's family, friends, and all who loved them — and to all LGBTQI+ Americans for whom this tragedy feels so personal, know this: I will always have your back."

Kelley Robinson, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, told the Blade, "As parents, we send our kids to school expecting that they will be safe and cared for. Nex was failed by so many and should still be here today. We hold their family in our hearts as they grapple with the devastating reality that their beloved child, a teen with a bright future, is no longer making this world a brighter place.

"Nex died one day after being beaten unconscious in a school bathroom, and following more than a year of bullying and harassment at school," Robinson added. "This is heartbreaking. And we have heard from so many parents and students that this culture of bullying and harassment is both pervasive at Owasso Public Schools and that many within the school had actual knowledge that it was occurring and took no steps to fix it. We reiterate our call for a full and complete investigation. Young people in Oklahoma and across the country deserve to be safe and respected at school."

Biden also commented in support of LGBTQ young people generally and said there is help available for those who need it.

"To LGBTQI+ young people across the country — you are loved exactly as you are," he added. "If you're feeling overwhelmed or alone, you can call or text 988, the National Crisis Hotline, and dial the number '3' to talk to a counselor who has been specifically trained to support LGBTQI+ youth."

If you need help, the national mental health crisis hotline number is 988. LGBTQ youth can also contact The Trevor Project.

Updated, 3/14/24: This article has been updated with President Joe Biden's statement.

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