Ex-student of Nex Benedict’s school district alleges culture of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying

A graduate from Nex Benedict’s school district has described her own difficulties with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.

The Oklahoma school district has come in for criticism following the death of the 16-year-old transgender teenager in February. Benedict, whose friends say identified as Two Spirit and used he/him and they/them pronouns, died on 8 February after being taken to hospital a day after an alleged altercation with three girls at Owasso High School.

While in hospital on 7 February, Benedict, who was a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, told a police officer about being beaten until he blacked out.

A partial autopsy report released on 13 March concluded that Benedict died of an overdose from a cocktail of drugs.

The LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), has criticised both the Owasso Public Schools district and Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters.

Former student alleges culture of harassment in Nex Benedict’s school district

In an advert published on YouTube on 17 April, a former pupil in the school district, known only as Marley H, told HRC of a culture of harassment and bullying she faced while a student.

“It hurts to know that not only do your teachers personally not support you, [but also] if a student bullies you or harasses you or calls you names, they aren’t going to do anything about it,” she said. “It promotes a culture where you feel you shouldn’t report issues.”

Marley told the HRC that, following Benedict’s death, it’s now even more vital that the “gravity of the situation” be addressed. “That’s what happens when you see something and you don’t say anything,” she said.

Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict died after being taken to hospital in February. (GoFundMe)

In late February, the HRC called for a federal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death, saying in an open letter that his life “demands justice.

The organisation’s president, Kelley Robinson, urged the Department of Justice to investigate both the Owasso Public Schools district and the Owasso Police Department, saying it has “various tools available for addressing anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence”.

Marley, who claimed she witnessed and was subjected to anti-LGBTQ+ hatred first-hand, said there is a “trickle-down effect” in the district, where fellow students are driven to bully queer people because of the rhetoric that Oklahoma Republicans spread.

“Those children hear what their parents say, and those children are going to school,” she said. “And that rhetoric is being passed down from our elected officials to our parents to our children, then affects entire school districts.”

Marley recalled an incident in which another student repeatedly used slurs against her and her friends, but said that the teacher in class refused to do anything.

“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,” she alleged.

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