Authorities to release video from school where family of LGBTQ student said teen was attacked day before their death – DollarJob

Authorities to release video from school where family of LGBTQ student said teen was attacked day before their death

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Authorities in Oklahoma will release video from inside the school where the family of an LGBTQ student said the teen was attacked and assaulted in a bathroom one day before their death, police said Wednesday.

Hallway cameras inside Owasso High School West Campus show the student, Nex Benedict, before and after the Feb. 7 fight, Owasso Police Department spokesman Nick Boatman told NBC News.

Boatman said investigators have reviewed the video and will release it “at some point.” He did not provide additional details about what the video shows.

Owasso High School West Campus in Owasso, Okla.
Owasso High School West Campus in Owasso, Okla.Google maps

In a statement Wednesday, the police department said that preliminary information from an autopsy shows that Nex’s Feb. 8 death was not related to trauma. A toxicology exam is pending, and an official autopsy will be released later, the department said. 

The statement did not provide additional details on a possible cause or manner of death.

Authorities have not said what prompted the fight, who was responsible for starting it or if anyone will face criminal charges. An investigation is ongoing, the department said Wednesday.

In a separate statement Wednesday, a lawyer for Nex’s family said the teen was assaulted in the bathroom by a group of students. Nex’s mother, Sue Benedict, previously told the Independent that the 16-year-old had been bullied over their gender identity.

Efforts to reach the family have been unsuccessful. The lawyer’s statement did not directly address the matter but said the “facts currently known by the family, some of which have been released to the public, are troubling at best.”

“The Benedicts know all too well the devastating effects of bullying and school violence, and pray for meaningful change wherein bullying is taken seriously and no family has to deal with another preventable tragedy.”

The statement urged authorities tasked with investigating and prosecuting the incident to do so fairly and quickly. The family is independently interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, the statement said.

“The Benedict family calls on all school, local, state and national officials to join forces to determine why this happened, to hold those responsible to account and to ensure it never happens again,” the statement said.

School officials this week said that “speculation and misinformation” about the case had intensified in recent days over the “district’s commitment to student safety & security.”

“We understand the importance of ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all students and know that the information below doesn’t change the facts that a fight occurred on school grounds and a student passed away the next day,” the school district said in a statement.

The district has said the fight lasted two minutes and was broken up by other students and a school employee. The students involved in the fight left the area “under their own power” and gave statements to administrators, who then contacted the students’ parents.

The students were also given health assessments, the police department said, and a nurse recommended that Nex visit a medical facility for further examination. A school resource officer interviewed the student at the hospital where they were examined.

The following afternoon, the department said, medical personnel were dispatched to a medical emergency involving Nex. The student was taken to an emergency room and later pronounced dead.

Nex’s death comes after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed three bills into law last year targeting LGBTQ people, including one that bars transgender students and staff from using school restrooms of their gender identities.

The other laws prohibit transition-related care for minors and discrimination against religious entities.

The restrictions on school bathroom use and gender-affirming care have faced legal challenges. A trans teen, identified as J. Doe in legal documents, sued the Oklahoma State Board of Education in December after state Superintendent Ryan Walters filed an emergency rule to prevent trans students from changing the gender listed on their school documents.

Last year, Oklahoma considered 35 bills targeting LGBTQ people out of more than 500 introduced nationwide, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. So far this year, state lawmakers have introduced 54 bills targeting LGBTQ people, the highest number in the nation, according to the ACLU.

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