Obituary for Nex Benedict

UPDATE, 3/14/24: Nex Benedict's death has been ruled a suicide, according to a medical examiner’s report released on March 13. The report says Benedict died due to a combined overdose of Diphenhydramine and Fluoxetine.

The death of nonbinary teen Nex Benedict in Oklahoma on Feb. 8 and contradictory comments from their family and local police became a national story and fueled media bias in coverage of LGBTQ issues and culture war debates.

What happened to Nex Benedict?

Sixteen-year-old Nex Benedict, who identified as nonbinary and used he/they pronouns, died on Feb. 8 after being rushed to a hospital.

On Feb. 7, Owasso High School officials said a fight occurred in a restroom for less than two minutes before it was broken up by a staff member and other students. Benedict was involved, and was reportedly taken to the hospital, treated, and released that day. 

Benedict’s family reported that Nex fell and hit their head during the fight, and that Nex collapsed the next morning at home and was again taken to the hospital, where they died. 

Benedict’s family said Nex had previously been the target of bullying because of their nonbinary identity, and released messages between a family member and Nex describing the altercation.

On Feb. 21, police said, ”Preliminary information from the medical examiner’s office is that a complete autopsy was performed and indicated that the decedent did not die as a result of trauma.” It didn’t elaborate on the nature of the possible “trauma.”

It also stated that “any further comments on the cause of death are currently pending until toxicology results and other ancillary testing results are received.”

Following the medical examiner's report on March 13, the Owasso Police Department announced that "From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide.  However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office." Police didn't say whether a suicide note was found.

Some politicians, news reports blamed the right

After reports of Benedict’s death and history of being bullied broke, some politicians and advocacy groups blamed “anti-LGBTQ laws” and highlighted a 2022 law mandating students at public schools use restrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. 

“The killing of Nex Benedict is gut-wrenching and underscores the danger of extremists who are dehumanizing kids with anti-trans hate in Oklahoma and across the country,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Feb. 21. “Every student should feel safe at school and supported for who they are.”

“Anti-trans rhetoric leads to anti-trans violence,” tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D) on Feb. 22. “My heart is with the loved ones of Nex Benedict, a non-binary Indigenous teenager who died after being brutally beaten at their high school.”

Some left-rated news outlets struck the same tone:

The New Republic (Left bias) : “Oklahoma Republicans Passed a Bathroom Bill. Now a Trans Kid Is Dead.”

The Independent (Lean Left bias) : “Oklahoma banned trans students from bathrooms. Now a bullied student is dead after a fight.”

Others covered conservative school administrators skeptically.  RollingStone (Left bias) said, “Superintendent Ryan Walters, a major contributor to Oklahoma’s school policies, has been criticized for policies advocates say target and endanger trans and gender nonconforming students. He was also responsible for appointing Libs of TikTok’s Chaya Raichik to a volunteer board even though she doesn’t live in the state.”

“The man who heads public education in Oklahoma is also a vocal critic of LGBTQ+ rights,” reported The Washington Post (Lean Left bias). “Superintendent Ryan Walters appointed Chaya Raichik — the conservative activist behind Libs of TikTok, which has targeted LGBTQ-friendly teachers at Owasso schools — to a state library advisory board.”

Once police said Benedict didn’t die from the fight, some conservatives said they’d been unfairly demonized.

“You are spreading misinformation,” conservative pundit Chad Felix Greene said in response to Warren’s tweet. “Benedict, in her own words, targeted several girls in the bathroom and threw water at them to start a confrontation. She was knocked down, hitting her head. There is no evidence of anti-trans bias. You are exploiting her death for politics.”

Following the medical examiner’s report deeming Benedict’s death a suicide, media across the spectrum continued to strike different tones.

Sources on the left such as Vox (Left bias) tended to focus more on the issues of the bathroom bill, as well as the issues surrounding the school’s alleged lack of concern for both the bullying leading up to the fight and for Benedict after their head was slammed against the floor

The left spent much more time diving into the background of who Benedict was, and how a plethora of laws have purportedly ostracized trans kids such as Benedict in Oklahoma. 

Sources on the right, like The New York Post (Lean Right bias), concentrated more on the report of overdose as the cause of death. The right also seemed to give more voice to school officials and law enforcement, and less to the LGBTQ community. 

Some sources reported that LGBTQ+ supporters will march to the Oklahoma State Capitol on Thursday at 1:30 PM.

What does Oklahoma’s “bathroom bill” say?

The opening summary of Senate Bill 615, the act in question, states that it "requires each public school and public charter school that serves students in prekindergarten through twelfth grades to require every multiple occupancy restroom or changing room to be designated for the exclusive use of the male sex or the female sex."

What do we know about Nex Benedict’s death?

Benedict was involved in a fight on Feb. 7, and Benedict’s family say Nex had been bullied extensively over their identity. Benedict died the following day, and the death was ruled a suicide a month later by the local medical examiner.

“While at Owasso High School, Nex was attacked and assaulted in a bathroom by a group of other students,” the family said Wednesday in a statement released by their lawyer. “A day later, the Benedicts’ beautiful child lost their life.”

The Independent reported that Nex’s mother, Sue Benedict, said Nex and “another transgender student got into a fight in a school restroom with three older girls." In Nex’s message with a family member shown earlier in this article, Nex said it was a “3 on 1” fight. It’s unclear whether a friend of Nex was also present during the fight.

There is evidence that Benedict was injured and taken to the hospital after the fight. There is no hard evidence that Benedict died as a result of the fight. Blaming conservatives or identity-based bullying for the death is a matter of opinion.

Benedict’s family say they are conducting an independent investigation into Nex’s death. 

Henry A. Brechter is the Editor-in-chief of AllSides. He has a Center bias.

This blog was reviewed by Director of Bias Ratings Julie Mastrine (Lean Right bias), Content Designer and News Editor Joseph Ratliff (Lean Left bias), and Deputy Blog Editor Isaiah Anthony (Center bias), who's an Oklahoma native.