Metro Weekly

Nex Benedict’s Death Exploited by Left, Says Republican

Oklahoma school official pushes back on claims that his anti-LGBTQ policies contributed to the death of nonbinary student Benedict.

Ryan Walters – Photo: Facebook

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction, blasted “radical leftists” for allegedly using the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict to push a political agenda. 

Speaking with The New York Times, Walters accused LGBTQ advocates of misrepresenting the facts about Benedict’s death. He pushed back on suggestions — primarily those circulating on social media — that Benedict’s death, which occurred on February 8, was linked to a fight in a girls’ bathroom at Owasso High School on February 7.

Local police have since said that preliminary autopsy results found that Nex “did not die as a result of trauma.” The state medical examiner’s office has not yet publicly released its report on the autopsy and toxicology results. 

“I think it’s terrible that we’ve had some radical leftists who decided to run with a political agenda and try to weave a narrative that hasn’t been true,” Walters told the Times. “You’ve taken a tragedy, and you’ve had some folks try to exploit it for political gain.”

Walters rejected assertions that the fight was motivated by anti-transgender animus or inspired by Oklahoma Department of Education policies that restrict transgender or nonbinary students from identifying as transgender or using restrooms that don’t align with their assigned sex at birth. It remains unclear what the motivation for the attack was.

On February 24, the Owasso Police Department released a video of an interview with Benedict in the hospital on the day of the altercation. Benedict said that three girls had attacked them and their friend after Benedict poured water on them for mocking them for the way they laughed.

Benedict also told police that the same girls had allegedly bullied them and their friend, who is transgender, in the past “because of the way that we dress.”

The girls attacked the pair, and at some point during the altercation, Nex hit their head on the bathroom floor. After two minutes, a school staff member broke up the fight.

According to a statement from Owasso Public Schools given to Tulsa-area NBC affiliate KJRH, all the students “walked under their own power to the assistant principal’s office and nurse’s office.”

After being evaluated by the school nurse, it was determined that no ambulance service was required, but “it was recommended to one parent” — presumably Benedict’s mother, Sue — “that their student visit a medical facility for further examination.” 

The Owasso Police Department has since released a statement saying that school officials did not file a police report and that police only learned about the fight after family members took Benedict to the hospital later that day.

Benedict was released from the hospital, only to collapse at their home the following day. They were rushed to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

Walters has vehemently protested the idea that state policies prohibiting the acknowledgment of gender identity have led to increased hostility towards transgender and nonbinary students. He also told the Times he rejects the existence of transgender or nonbinary identities.

“There’s not multiple genders,” he said. “There’s two. That’s how God created us. You always treat individuals with dignity or respect, because they’re made in God’s image. But that doesn’t change truth.”

Walters, who was elected to the position of state superintendent in 2022, has been criticized for his attacks on school districts and teachers whom he has accused of promoting “pornography” or “radical gender theory” in public schools.

Pro-LGBTQ groups previously slammed Walters for appointing Chaya Raichik, the person behind the Libs of TikTok social media account and a fierce opponent of LGBTQ visibility, to a state committee designed to vet library books to ensure they do not contain “sexual” content or “age-inappropriate” material.

He also reportedly pressured educators in several districts to resign, including a teacher who shared a link to a library’s online collection of banned books and an elementary school principal who performed in drag outside of school.

LGBTQ advocates have blasted Walters for his anti-LGBTQ crackdown and for allegedly fostering an atmosphere in schools where hostility towards transgender individuals is condoned.

“Ryan Walters has created a devastatingly hostile environment for trans, two-spirit and gender-nonconforming students,” Nicole McAfee, the executive director of the LGBTQ group Freedom Oklahoma, said in a statement.

Hali, a transgender girl enrolled in high school in Oklahoma, echoed those concerns, claiming that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric promoted by Walters has led some students to believe it’s acceptable to harass and bully their LGBTQ peers. 

“There’s a lot of feelings of helplessness,” Hali told the Times. “You always have that little bit of fear that you could be attacked, that you could be one of the victims.”

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