Federal investigation launched into Oklahoma school district following Nex Benedict’s death

Owasso Public Schools' handling of sex-based harassment is being investigated following the death of trans teenager Nex Benedict.

This article is about a federal investigation being launched into the Oklahoma school district following the death of Nex Benedict. The image shows a colourful cardboard sign reading,
Image: @AriDrennen via X

A federal investigation has been launched into Owasso Public Schools in the wake of Nex Benedict’s death. The transgender teenager passed away on February 8, a day after being involved in a physical altercation in the girls’ bathroom of their high school.

The investigation, undertaken by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, was announced on Friday, March 1. It comes following a formal complaint from Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Kelley Robinson, who alleged that the Oklahoma school district “discriminated against students by failing to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment, of which it had notice.”

In her letter, Robinson urged the US Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, and his department “to use the enforcement mechanisms at its disposal to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future and to help hold accountable those responsible for Nex’s tragic death.”

In response to the complaint, the Office for Civil Rights has confirmed it has opened an investigation into whether the district failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Robinson and the HRC welcomed the news, saying “Nex’s family, community, and the broader 2SLGBTQI+ (two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex+) community in Oklahoma are still awaiting answers following their tragic loss. We appreciate the Department of Education responding to our complaint and opening an investigation – we need them to act urgently so there can be justice for Nex, and so that all students at Owasso High School and every school in Oklahoma can be safe from bullying, harassment, and discrimination.”


The HRC has also sent a second letter to the Department asking it to begin an investigation into the Oklahoma State Department of Education, as well as the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters. The Republican politician has come under fire recently for his anti-trans views and his reported connection to a far-right podcaster who spreads violent rhetoric targeting transgender youth.

Robinson additionally wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Nex’s death, and to Dr Margaret Coates, superintendent of the Owasso school district, calling for the implementation of the HRC’s Welcoming Schools program to foster an inclusive and safe environment for LGBTQ+ students.

Nex Benedict, a transgender student of Choctaw heritage, had reportedly been bullied since 2023. On February 7, they were allegedly assaulted by three older female students in the girls’ bathroom of their school, suffering head injuries which were examined at the Bailey Medical Center in Tulsa County, where they also spoke to a police school resource officer before being discharged. 

The following day, Nex collapsed in their living room and was rushed back to hospital where they were declared dead.

While the Owasso Police Department’s investigation is ongoing, the force has said that Nex “did not die as a result of trauma.” Authorities have not yet provided any further clarity on the cause of death, stating that additional information is “pending until toxicology results and other ancillary testing results are received.”


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