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Owasso school board blasted for “spitting on grave” of Nex Benedict by ignoring bullying

Nex Benedict is a white, non-binary, 16-year-old who died after a bathroom fight in Owasso High School in Owasso, Oklahoma
Nex Benedict Photo: GoFundMe

Angry community members spoke out at the first board meeting of the Owasso Public School District following the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old transgender Native American student who died on February 8 after an alleged assault by three bullies in his high school bathroom.

Medical experts have recently cast doubt upon a report from the state medical examiner’s office that ruled Benedict’s death as a likely suicide from the “combined toxicity” of two medications: the anti-histamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and the anti-depressant fluoxetine (Prozac). The experts said death from these two drugs would be “uncommon” and “very rare.”

At last Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. Margaret Coates acknowledged angry protestors who accused administrators of doing nothing to address the district’s alleged bullying problem.

“I’m proud that in times like this our school community continues to come together to reflect, support one another, and ensure that every student feels a sense of safety, security, and belonging within our school walls,” Coates said.

However, former Owasso student Madison Hutton said that students at the school experience “rampant bullying and bigotry,” WDBJ reported. Nex had reportedly experienced continual bullying during his school career before the alleged bathroom bullying incident that occurred on February 7, one day before his death.

Self-described comedian Walter Masterson also delivered an angry speech during the meeting, saying, “A more, you know, woke school board would see the death of a child and work to make sure it never happens again. Not this board! This board sees a dead kid and says ‘That’s a good start!'”

“There’s nothing more unnatural than a teenager experimenting with their identity,” Masterson said sarcastically, “because it has never happened before and should be punished. We’re the good guys — we’ll spit on a kid’s grave, blame the parents, and tell our teenagers to hit them harder…. When we heard that a trans child had been beaten to death, our State Senator Tom Woods immediately released a statement: ‘We don’t want that filth in Oklahoma.'”

Masterson referred to a statement Woods (R) made when questioned at a public forum about Benedict’s death and the state’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

Woods replied, “We are a Republican state, a supermajority, in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that filth in Oklahoma. We are a religious state, and we are going to fight it to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we are a Christian state. We are a moral state.”

When questioned about his comments, Woods said, “A child losing their life is horrible,” and then claimed that groups with ” radical ideologies” are trying to “mutilate” children. Gender-affirming surgeries are rarely ever performed on minors.

Two medical experts recently cast doubt on official reports that Benedict died due to a suicide overdose by Prozac and Benadryl. Both said that the medications, when used as directed, rarely result in death.

“The risk of death from these medications … is extraordinarily low,” Dr. Masha Yemets, a toxicology expert, said.

 “Death again is very rare from these poisons, but we would say, in the case of an overdose, general complications can lead to seizures and aspiration. Aspiration means that vomit goes down into the lungs, which can quickly lead to death. The quickest cause of death, however, could be arrhythmia,” Dr. Joshua King, medical director of the Maryland Poison Center, said.

“It is possible that the medications could interact in someone who had an undiagnosed heart condition, meaning that these medications can cause a particular type of heart arrhythmia … but that would be very, very, very rare in normal use,” King added.

King said that the final toxicology report on Benedict’s death could shed light on the levels of each drug present in Benedict’s system at the time of his death, as well as whether the death was caused by aspiration or arrhythmia. He added that the level of medication necessary to cause an overdose can vary by individual.

Benedict’s family has pledged to conduct an independent investigation into the teen’s death. The family has noted that the official report mentioned bruises on Benedict’s right eye and right side of their face as well as scrapes on their cheeks and ears and bleeding under their scalp that all convey the seriousness of the attack Benedict allegedly endured in the bathroom before he allegedly blacked out due to his injuries.

Benedict’s school didn’t call an ambulance for the injured teen and didn’t inform the police of the assault until he was later admitted to the hospital. 

In a statement issued last Thursday, President Joe Biden said, “Nex Benedict, a kid who just wanted to be accepted, should still be here with us today… 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.”

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.

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