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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Federal investigation initiated in Nex Benedict case
2024-03-02

This article shared 11208 times since Sat Mar 2, 2024
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The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has started an investigation into the Oklahoma school district where Nex Benedict, a transgender 16-year-old sophomore, went to school and was bullied before his death, The Advocate reported.

The action has been taken as a result of a formal complaint the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently filed regarding the handling of sex-based harassment incidents. This federal investigation follows a February incident in which Benedict was reportedly assaulted by three older students in a school restroom, leading to widespread criticism regarding the safety and treatment of transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive students within the education system.

HRC President Kelley Robinson sent the complaint to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, urging the department in a letter to use its enforcement mechanisms to prevent future tragedies and hold those responsible for Benedict's death accountable.

The letter, which Windy City Times accessed, begins "On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign's more than three million members and supporters nationwide, I write to request that the Department of Education (the "Department") promptly begin an investigation on the circumstances leading to the death of Nex Benedict, a non-binary teenager who died shortly after being brutally assaulted while at their high school in Oklahoma. Their death is a gut-wrenching tragedy that exposes the chilling reality of anti-transgender hatred spreading across the United States, and that the Department must investigate as part of Owasso High School's failure to address harassment and discrimination on its campus beginning in the 2023 school year.

"We believe that Nex's death is the natural consequence of a growing wave of hatred against LGBTQ+ people. This hatred is being fueled by an unprecedented, coordinated attempt to eliminate the rights and visibility of our communities across the country, which recently led us to declare a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people for the first time in our nearly half-century history."

The letter also mentioned that "Oklahoma has considered more than 85 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation since 2015, passing seven into law."

In responding to the news about the investigation, Robinson said, ""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.

—Andrew Davis


This article shared 11208 times since Sat Mar 2, 2024
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