Vigils held across US for ‘bullied’ non-binary student who died after school fight

US

Vigils have been held across the US for a “bullied” non-binary student who died after a fight at their school.

Nex Benedict, 16, died a day after getting into an altercation with three girls in a bathroom at Owasso High School in Oklahoma.

The teenager was taken to hospital by their mother but was discharged following checks later that evening.

They went to bed complaining of a sore head and collapsed the next day. Nex was rushed back to hospital but was pronounced dead soon after arrival.

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Footage of student a day before their death

Tests are ongoing to establish the cause of death, but police said initial findings suggested Nex did “not die as a result of trauma”.

LGBT+ campaigners say the case reflects a growing hostility towards non-binary and transgender people in the US.

The student’s mother, Sue Benedict, has raised concerns about the handling of the case and the fact that the school did not call the police or an ambulance.

She told The Independent that the teenager had been bullied since early 2023.

Ms Benedict added that Nex “did not see themselves as male or female. Nex saw themselves right down the middle.”

Footage from a police body camera, worn by an officer who interviewed Nex in hospital the day before they died, has revealed the teenager’s account of what happened.

Hundreds of people hold up candles during a candlelight service for Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died one day after a fight in a high school bathroom, at Point A Gallery, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City. (Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP)
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Hundreds of people attend a candlelight vigil for Nex in Oklahoma City. Pic: Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP

Kody Macaulay holds a sign during a candlelight service for Nex Benedict, a nonbinary teenager who died one day after a fight in a high school bathroom, at Point A Gallery, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City. (Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP)
Image:
Vigil-goer Kody Macaulay holds a sign in support of LGBT+ people. Pic: Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP

In the video, Nex said they threw water from a plastic bottle at the three girls after they began picking on them and a friend because of the way they dressed.

The student said the girls then “came at me”.

“They grabbed onto my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground,” they added.

The teenager said they were then beaten and blacked out.

Vigils were held on Friday and Saturday in cities including Boston, Minneapolis and Huntington Beach in California.

Further events are planned in places such as New York, Texas and Washington.

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Matt Blancett, who organised a vigil in McAlester, Oklahoma, said the event was important to “show people that we have a community, we are here, we’re not going anywhere”.

Malia Pila, Nex’s sister, described her sibling as a “wonderful child that impacted all of us in ways that are difficult to truly articulate in their importance”.

“We’re deeply, deeply sad about their passing,” she added.

The police investigation into the fight, which happened on 7 February, and Nex’s death on 8 February, continues.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week she was “absolutely heartbroken” over Nex’s death.

“Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school,” she added.

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