Oklahoma Students Walk Out Over Trans Student’s Death

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Students at Oklahoma’s Owasso High School staged a walkout Monday, with 40 students leaving class to protest the death of former student Nex Benedict — and the bullying polices students believe caused Benedict’s death, NBC News reports.

Previous reporting used they/them pronouns following statements from Benedict’s family that said the teen did not align with the gender binary. “Nex did not see themselves as male or female,” Benedict’s mother Sue Benedict told the Independent. “Nex saw themselves right down the middle.” According to NBC News, several close friends and classmates of Benedict said the teen preferred he/him pronouns and considered himself trans, but also used they/them pronouns.

Benedict was attending Owasso High School on Feb. 7 when he was involved in a fight with three older girls. According to body camera footage recently released by the Owasso Police Department, Benedict said that he and a friend were being bullied over their clothing, and that after  he threw water over the students making the comments, he was “jumped” in the bathroom.

“And so I went up there and I poured water on them, and then all three of them came at me,” Benedict explained to the police officer in the released video. “They came at me. They grabbed on my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground.”

Benedict collapsed at home and died on Feb. 8, one day after the in-school fight — immediately driving suspicion about the teen’s cause of death. Benedict told police officers and medical staff that he blacked out during the fight, and released footage from the school hallways also shows Benedict swaying slightly while walking to the administration’s offices.

Although police and school officials remain tight-lipped, activists and trans students have blamed Benedict’s death and poor treatment on Oklahoma’s antagonistic policies surrounding transgender students. In a statement shared with Rolling Stone last week, a spokesperson for the Owasso Police Department said preliminary information from an autopsy indicated that Benedict’s death was not the result of trauma. Through their lawyers, Benedict’s family has already said they will seek an independent investigation into Benedict’s death.

Students at the walkout, at least 40, stood outside protesting what they called unchecked and ignored bullying problems in the high school. Several who spoke to NBC News reported being called slurs and describe an internal culture where students felt unable to speak out.

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“There’s been bullying issues. This time, the bullying has gone so far that a student has passed,” Kane, a walkout organizer, told NBC News. “To me, it doesn’t matter if Nex passed from a traumatic brain injury or if they passed from suicide. What matters is the fact that they died after getting bullied, and that is the story for so many other students. I’ve been close to ending it myself because of bullying. It’s not new for so many students.” 

“Even if something did happen, there’s no point in going to any kind of administration or teachers about it because absolutely nothing will be done,” Ally, another student, said. “And I’ve seen it time and time again with my friends.”

Read original source here.

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