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Owasso awaits answers in death of nonbinary student as officials warn of misinformation

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Nex Benedict

A community in the Tulsa area is waiting to learn more details about the death of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who died Feb. 8.

Sue Benedict, the mother of Nex Benedict, said the family is expecting a report from the medical examiner to learn more about how Nex died. In a short interview with Public Radio Tulsa, Sue Benedict said that Nex collapsed at home after seeking medical attention for injuries sustained in a fight at school on Feb. 7, but that she is not certain yet how much that altercation contributed to Nex’s death.

Benedict said school staff didn’t call an ambulance and that medical professionals performed a cursory exam before discharging Nex.

Owasso Public Schools said in a statement released Tuesday that an ambulance was not deemed necessary for the less than two minute restroom altercation broken up by other students and staff, but "it was recommended to one parent that their student visit a medical facility for further examination" after a health assessment was conducted on each student.

OPS rebutted a circulating idea that Nex was unable to walk after the fight, saying that each student involved "walked under their own power" to the assistant principal and nurse.

OPS said "speculation and misinformation" have intensified in recent days.

"We understand that for many, additional questions remain, however these are the facts that we are able to communicate at this juncture. We will continue to cooperate fully with the Owasso Police Department’s investigation," the statement reads.

Nex was often the target of bullies, Benedict said. The family was still learning about Nex’s nonbinary identity and sometimes called them by their birth name at home. Benedict said the family is facing harassment and mounting misinformation as they try to cope with their grief.

“I just want my child back,” she said.

A GoFundMe raised almost $30,000 on behalf of the family, but Benedict said she requested contributions cease after a flood of misinformation like claims that Nex was stabbed started to surface.

Liz Testerman was a substitute teacher at Owasso Public Schools for three years. She said OPS has a real problem with bullying.

“There’s always been bullies and we’re always going to have bullies and I understand that," said Testerman. "But Owasso needs to care about more than just the student athletes making a name for themselves."

Testerman said the community is tired of waiting for answers, but that in any case, "bullying is what killed Nex."

The Owasso Police Department said it was notified of Nex’s death after their second trip to the hospital on Feb. 8 when they were pronounced dead. Police emphasized that misinformation about the case is swirling and that an investigation is ongoing.

This is a developing story.

Help is available

Stories like these can often negatively impact the mental health of 2SLGBTQ+ people. There are resources available for those seeking mental health support.

  • Trans Lifeline is a suicide hotline for trans people, run by transgender volunteers. Their hotline number is 877-565-8860.
  • If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, you can contact The Trevor Project's Trevor Lifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat every day or by texting "START" to 678-678.
Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher
Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS.
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