a smiling photo of Nex in front of our Two-Spirit Initiative logo and sunflower graphics at the bottom. The background is a basket weave texture.

The death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary Choctaw student at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, is devastating and was preventable. The circumstances surrounding Nex’s passing, following a brutal attack in a school bathroom, demand not only our deepest sympathies but also our steadfast commitment to safer and more inclusive schools.

At the core of the tragedy lies the failure of school districts to protect their students. Local news reports suggest that Nex was subjected to a fatal beating by multiple peers, an incident witnessed by a teacher who intervened only after significant harm had been done. Disturbingly, the staff at Owasso High School not only neglected to call an ambulance but also failed to report the violence to the local police. 

GSA Network, with a mission to support TQ2S+ students in creating safer schools, firmly condemns any form of violence and discrimination that isolates and harms young people. Nex Benedict’s short life underscores the importance of fostering a school environment that protects the rights and well-being of all students, regardless of their gender identity.

We must interrupt cycles of violence and prevent them from happening again. We must recognize our responsibility to young people and their fundamental right to grow up as their most authentic selves. We must remember that every student is impacted when their peers are left behind. 

Moreover, we honor Nex Benefict’s Indigenous lineage and Choctaw community roots. Violence against Indigenous and Two-Spirit people is historical and ongoing – and Nex’s death is connected to that of all MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) and people. Nex’s personhood should be celebrated, and their heritage should be respected in both media coverage and community dialogue.

It is crucial that we also address the misgendering and misnaming of Nex Benedict happening in media reports and fundraising efforts. Respecting Nex’s chosen name and pronouns is not only a matter of dignity but also a crucial step in celebrating their life. We must collectively challenge the erasure of transgender, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit individuals, both in life and in death.

We call on Owasso Public Schools and the local police department to prioritize transparency and communication regarding the ongoing investigation into Nex’s death. The lack of information only fuels uncertainty and distress within the community, hindering the healing process for Nex’s family and friends. Additionally, we urge educational institutions, including Owasso High School, to reevaluate their policies that ensure the safety and well-being of every student. School staff should be trained to identify and respond promptly to incidents of violence, fostering an environment where students feel secure reporting such incidents without fear of retribution.

As we mourn the loss of Nex Benedict, let us channel our grief into a collective call for justice, accountability, and systemic change. Our commitment to creating safer schools for all students is unwavering, and we must work together to ensure that no more students face the tragedy that befell Nex.

*Originally, we misidentified Nex as a Cherokee student. This has since been corrected following a statement released by Freedom Oklahoma.