Trans Student Nex Benedict’s School District Under Investigation by Education Department

The Department of Education has launched an investigation into the death of Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict, who died a day after a fight inside a school bathroom.

Friends and family said Benedict, who was 16 years old, used he and him pronouns as well as they and them pronouns. Relatives of the 10th-grader said Benedict had been bullied over his gender identity. His death has drawn national attention as activists and trans students have blamed the state’s antagonistic policies surrounding transgender students for the tragedy.

The investigation arrives after Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Kelley Robinson sent letters to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Attorney General Merrick Garland, calling on their respective departments to launch investigations into the circumstances of Benedict’s death.

When addressing Cardona, Robinson pushed the Department of Education to “investigate whether Owasso High School unlawfully failed to address the discrimination and harassment to which Nex was subjected,” while also calling on the department to conduct a Title IX compliance investigation for the school.

Robinson also urged Garland to use the Department of Justice’s “tools available for addressing anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence, including through the bringing of a hate crimes investigation and potentially charges that could help hold the perpetrators of these horrific acts against Nex accountable for their hate-fueled violence.” The letter also pressed the DOJ to work with the Department of Education to “support their assessment of violations of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.”

In the letter from the Department of Education notifying the HRC of the investigation on Friday, it outlined that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was examining whether the district “failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students in a manner consistent” with the requirements of Title IX and Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act) and Title II (of the Americans with Disabilities Act).

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Owasso Public Schools confirmed it received notice of the investigation and said that the “district is committed to cooperating with federal officials and believes the complaint submitted by HRC is not supported by the facts and is without merit.”


Benedict was attending Owasso High School on Feb. 7 when he was involved in a fight with three older girls. The high school student told police officers and medical staff that he blacked out during the fight, and released footage from the school hallways also shows him swaying slightly while walking to the administration’s offices. One day after the fight, Benedict collapsed and was rushed back to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In late February, friends and classmates of Benedict walked out of class to protest their school’s policies and culture surrounding bullying. “There’s been bullying issues. This time, the bullying has gone so far that a student has passed,” Kane, a walkout organizer, told NBC News. “To me, it doesn’t matter if Nex passed from a traumatic brain injury or if they passed from suicide. What matters is the fact that they died after getting bullied, and that is the story for so many other students. I’ve been close to ending it myself because of bullying. It’s not new for so many students.”