Death of beaten Oklahoma nonbinary teen ruled a suicide

By Thomson Reuters Mar 13, 2024 | 6:11 PM

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Oklahoma’s medical examiner on Wednesday ruled that nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict died by suicide in a death that friends and family said came one day after a beating at school that culminated a pattern of bullying due to their gender identity.

The case of Benedict, 16, has drawn scrutiny from LGBTQ advocates who believe school officials may have overlooked abuse and has led to a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Education to determine if any laws were broken or whether the school district failed to respond to harassment.

The summary report released by Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner on Wednesday found antidepressants and antihistamines in Benedict’s system in addition to blood about the nose and mouth.

The summary also cited, “Other significant conditions contributing to death (but not resulting in the underlying cause given).”

They died on Feb. 8, a day after their family reported Benedict was beaten by students in the girls’ bathroom. Benedict, who was assigned female at birth, preferred they/them pronouns with some people and he/him pronouns among close friends, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

“The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy,” the family said in a statement released to ABC News.

The Human Rights Campaign reiterated its call for a thorough investigation and linked bullying and harassment to elevated suicide rates for LGBTQ youth.

“Nex died one day after being beaten unconscious in a school bathroom, and following more than a year of bullying and harassment at school. This is heartbreaking,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a statement.

Owasso Public Schools on Wednesday called Benedict’s death “devastating” and offered counseling, but did not address the bullying accusations.

“As we mourn together, OPS remains focused on the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Let’s continue to lean on each other in the days ahead,” Superintendent Margaret Coates said in an open letter.

Owasso police said in a statement that investigators had suspected suicide from the beginning but withheld comment pending the autopsy.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Leslie Adler)