Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Education Department in the US is looking into an Oklahoma school district. This comes after the unfortunate passing of a nonbinary teenager named Nex Benedict

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After the death of Nex Benedict, a tenth-grade student, the US Department of Education is looking into whether an Oklahoma school district responded appropriately to reported harassment. Nex, who identified as nonbinary, passed away on February 8, the day after mentioning a fight with other students at Owasso High School.

The cause of Nex’s death is not yet clear, and an initial autopsy showed no trauma as the cause. The Human Rights Campaign filed a complaint on February 21, asking federal officials to investigate the circumstances leading to Nex’s death, alleging that Owasso High School failed to address instances of bullying, violence, and harassment.

The Department of Education, in response, is checking if Owasso Public Schools followed Title IX and Title II protections when handling harassment claims. The school district, notified about the investigation, plans to cooperate with federal officials, rejecting the HRC’s complaint as unsupported and without merit.

Congressional Equality Caucus Rep. Mark Pocan supports the investigation, emphasizing its importance in ensuring a discrimination-free learning environment in Owasso Public Schools.

Nex’s death received national attention, with vigils held across the US, highlighting concerns about an unfriendly environment for the LGBTQ+ community. Police body camera footage from February 7 shows an officer talking to Nex and their guardian after a school bathroom fight. Nex explained that the altercation began with derogatory comments, leading to a physical confrontation that was eventually broken up.

The school district, citing privacy laws, didn’t disclose specific disciplinary actions. A GoFundMe has been set up for Nex’s family, who expressed concern over the incident’s details and called for a thorough and prompt investigation to prevent similar tragedies.

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