Oklahoma students walk out after trans student’s death

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ASPartOfMe
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26 Feb 2024, 6:28 pm

After the death of Nex Benedict, classmates at Owasso High School say bullying often goes unpunished, causing students to feel like there’s no point asking for help

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t least 40 students at Owasso High School walked out Monday to protest what they describe as a pervasive culture of bullying with little accountability, which they believe led to a student’s death at their school.

Nex Benedict, 16, died Feb. 8, a day after a fight in a bathroom on the school’s West Campus. In body camera footage from a police officer’s interview with Nex, he described how three students “jumped” him after he threw water on them because they were bullying him and his friend over the way that they dressed.

Nex’s mother, Sue Benedict, previously told The Independent that Nex told her he faced bullying due to his gender identity. Friends said Nex was transgender and primarily went by he/him pronouns at school but also used they/them pronouns, which Nex's family also used. Several other friends said Nex preferred he/him pronouns. In the body camera footage, when the police officer asked Nex if he ever reported the bullying to the school, Nex said, “I didn’t really see the point in it.”

Owasso students told NBC News that Nex’s answer is common among their classmates: LGBTQ students and others who face bullying due to their identities feel like when they report the bullying to the school, they either aren’t believed or nothing really changes.

The walkout is not political, said Kane, a nonbinary student who went to Owasso High School for 10th and 11th grade and now takes online classes for his senior year. Kane, who asked that only his first name be used for fear of being targeted further, led a 5-minute moment of silence in honor of Nex.

Kane said he has gone back and forth between in-person school and online classes since eighth grade in part due to bullying over his sexuality more than his gender identity. When he was a sophomore, a student called him and his partner “f------,” and he said students casually use the N-word often with no repercussions.

The high school has a student body of just less than 3,000.

Ahead of the walkout on Monday, one counter-protester made anti-LGBTQ statements using a megaphone. As he made comments about AIDS and how Jesus Christ was the “real man” lesbians need, students holding signs stating “trans youth belong” surrounded him to block him from sight.

“There’s been bullying issues. This time, the bullying has gone so far that a student has passed,” said Kane, who is one of the organizers of Monday’s walkout. “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.”

Robin Gray Ingersoll, who used to date Nex, said that he feels supported by the school, but that more could be done. He said that when he was on his way out to the walkout, Principal Tiffani Cooper told him she loves and supports him. The message Ingersoll hopes the walkout sends is that trans people aren’t going anywhere.

“We matter, and we will fight in his honor,” he said of Nex. “Because that’s what he was about — fighting and sticking up for himself.”

The Owasso Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that preliminary information from an autopsy report shows that Nex’s death was not the result of trauma. As a result, Kane said speculation that Nex died from an overdose has been rampant among classmates. A toxicology exam is still pending, and an official autopsy will be released later.

Ally, a senior at Owasso who uses they/them pronouns and asked to go by only their first name to protect their privacy, was friends with Nex. They said they aren’t out publicly about their gender identity due to fears about bullying, but they’ve seen friends, including Nex, face it.

“Even if something did happen, there’s no point in going to any kind of administration or teachers about it because absolutely nothing will be done,” Ally said. “And I’ve seen it time and time again with my friends.”

Neither of the students actually knew what the Owasso Public Schools’ bullying policy was and said they had never been informed of it by their school. The district’s student conduct code prohibits bullying, which includes “a pattern of harassment, intimidation, threatening behavior, physical acts, verbal or electronic communication, directed toward a student or group of students that results in or is reasonably perceived as being done with the intent to cause negative educational or physical results for the targeted individual or group” and is communicated in a way that would disrupt the school’s educational mission.

In order to meet the definition, district policy added that a reasonable person should recognize that such actions would “harm another student, damage another student’s property, place another student in reasonable fear or harm to the student’s property,” or insult or demean “any student or group of students” in a way that disrupts the school’s educational mission.

Ally said they hadn’t been as involved in the planning of the walkout as Kane had because they know their friend was the catalyst for it.

“I always have that reminder of what happened to them, and I can never really escape it because I go on my phone, it’s there,” they said. “I go out to go do something with a friend, I hear people talking about it. It’s always going to be there. I don’t truly ever have an escape for it. But I know that in whatever way I can, I would absolutely love to help get rid of what’s been happening at Owasso. Because my friend literally died from this, someone who I love died, and they had so much life left to live — like they weren’t even a month into being 16 when they died.”


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26 Feb 2024, 8:17 pm

Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.


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26 Feb 2024, 8:46 pm

funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.
That was about 21-34 years ago, right?  That's 1990-2003.

It was the same from 1962-1975.  Zero tolerance for reports of bullying, at least until the bullied person fought back, and then the bullied person was punished for 'starting' the fight.

Covert revenge was much more effective than overt self-defense, anyway.


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26 Feb 2024, 8:51 pm

funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.


Remember, this is Oklahoma. Such bullying is encouraged there, and is why we need one-party rule by the Dems, so we can get hate speech and intolerant behavior criminalized.


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26 Feb 2024, 9:04 pm

Fnord wrote:
funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.
That was about 21-34 years ago, right?  That's 1990-2003.

It was the same from 1962-1975.  Zero tolerance for reports of bullying, at least until the bullied person fought back, and then the bullied person was punished for 'starting' the fight.

Covert revenge was much more effective than overt self-defense, anyway.


My high school only cared about fights that happened on school property. If you were in a fight on the sidewalk out front of the school, they didn't see it. If it happened across the road, it might as well of not happened at all.

I've both been dragged off of school property to get my ass whooped and have dragged people off school property to beat their ass. The only time I had to deal with being punished for getting into a fight I made it clear to that teacher that people who choose to enable my bullies are themselves bullies and fair game for consequences, my message was understood and nothing further happened.

But, it's not good for anyone to put kids in the situation of having to handle bullying on their own because it only encourages violence and an almost omerta like mindset. Even as an adult I can't conceive of going to an authority for help with dealing with harassment or assault rather than getting my hands dirty, so to speak.


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26 Feb 2024, 9:06 pm

Tim_Tex wrote:
funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.


Remember, this is Oklahoma. Such bullying is encouraged there, and is why we need one-party rule by the Dems, so we can get hate speech and intolerant behavior criminalized.


A dictatorship isn't going to make bullying a priority, they'd have much bigger concerns like keeping the resulting civil war from erupting.

This is a non-solution and a fantasy. It might feel good to say, but it's never going to be a viable option; especially considering the Democrats aren't an authoritarian party. Literally all that calling for this might accomplish is setting off some crackpot right-winger who thinks the Dems are a Leninist party.


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27 Feb 2024, 12:53 am

funeralxempire wrote:
Tim_Tex wrote:
funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.


Remember, this is Oklahoma. Such bullying is encouraged there, and is why we need one-party rule by the Dems, so we can get hate speech and intolerant behavior criminalized.


A dictatorship isn't going to make bullying a priority, they'd have much bigger concerns like keeping the resulting civil war from erupting.

This is a non-solution and a fantasy. It might feel good to say, but it's never going to be a viable option; especially considering the Democrats aren't an authoritarian party. Literally all that calling for this might accomplish is setting off some crackpot right-winger who thinks the Dems are a Leninist party.


The bottom line is that conservative Christians need their freedom of speech and religion restricted. If not, expect more bullying of LGBT people.


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27 Feb 2024, 2:16 am

funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.


translation - zero action



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27 Feb 2024, 6:04 am

Fnord wrote:
funeralxempire wrote:
Sounds like they take bullying as seriously as my school did. Zero tolerance for bullying turned out to mean zero tolerance for reports of bullying.
That was about 21-34 years ago, right?  That's 1990-2003.

It was the same from 1962-1975.  Zero tolerance for reports of bullying, at least until the bullied person fought back, and then the bullied person was punished for 'starting' the fight.

Reporting bullying was never even thought about in those years, never mind walking out in support of the victims.

In my school they did not care who started a fight, it was just boys being boys. The routine was to go to the principal's office apologize, pretend to mean it, and maybe you can avoid detention.

If a dude came to school "dressed like a girl" I imagine he would be immediately sent to the psych ward and his parents driven out of town. I say I imagine because it never happened. When people asked where is Jhonny they said he moved in with his Grandparents, uncles, or whomever.

funeralxempire wrote:
My high school only cared about fights that happened on school property. If you were in a fight on the sidewalk out front of the school, they didn't see it. If it happened across the road, it might as well of not happened at all.

Same at my school. Guys knew the thing to do was agree to meet in the park after school to fight. The park can easily be seen from the school. Me and another student agreed to fight in the park after school. Our fight drew a particularly large crowd because we were the two most klutziest, most unlikely kids to engage in that. I "won" the title of school klutz. The timing was not great, it was a week before my bar mitzvah. 54 years on the memories live on my bar mitzvah book, my shiner plain to see.

At least we did not have 24/7 cyber bullying.


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27 Feb 2024, 3:36 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
[
In my school they did not care who started a fight, it was just boys being boys. The routine was to go to the principal's office apologize, pretend to mean it, and maybe you can avoid detention.


I don't think things have changed. My daughter's last years of highschool were dominated by girls picking fights with her. Despite the clear group bullying, whenever she fought back it was her that was suspended. The bullies made up some story she ws out of control and her autism made the teachers believe. The consequences of those experiences are impacting her college now. She is just so agitated around new people. I might have no choice but to review her medication.



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27 Feb 2024, 3:37 pm

ASPartOfMe wrote:
If a dude came to school "dressed like a girl" I imagine he would be immediately sent to the psych ward and his parents driven out of town. I say I imagine because it never happened. When people asked where is Jhonny they said he moved in with his Grandparents, uncles, or whomever.


In Australian schools in the 1970s he/her would likely have been lynched.



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27 Feb 2024, 3:58 pm

Meanwhile, this is the response from an Oklahoma state senator:

https://www.kjrh.com/news/local-news/state-senator-tom-woods-calls-lgbtq-members-filth-pro-tem-treat-responds

He's basically saying that Nex Benedict deserved to die. Oklahoma is so heavily Republican that a Democrat can only take power through violent revolution. They can't win at the ballot box.

If he were in Sweden, Tom Woods would be in prison. Sweden has very strict laws against hate speech. Even quoting Leviticus 18:22 in church is a prosecutable offense. The US needs the exact same laws.


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27 Feb 2024, 6:32 pm

What that state legislator said is plain vile, and as someone who is unfortunately still an Oklahoma resident at the moment, it sent a chill down my spine. It's undeniably genocidal rhetoric. And then you put it in the context of how it was said in his response to someone asking a question in context of the death of the nonbinary student. Jesus Christ. There is no expressing how absolutely disgusting and evil this man is. His heart is as black as coal.

Have you ever wondered how you got people to be so heartless as to become Nazi's? I suppose here you have it. In my lifetime, in my country, in my own state. :pale: Someone please rescue me. Please get me out of here right now. :cry:

I don't know how to handle speech like this. I don't know about legal punishments, but he should absolutely be removed from his position of power just because of that alone. But then look what he went onto say after that. All of that Christian Nationalist BS, which is completely unconstitutional.

But... We live in a country where a man is running for president who incited an insurrection and blatantly tried to steal the election in many different ways. If he can't be stopped, who can? Our government officials are incapable of being held accountable for anything at all. Not genocidal rhetoric, not breaking the constitution, not inciting an insurrection, not anything. SMH.


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27 Feb 2024, 11:54 pm

The only insurrections we need are against the governments of states like Texas, Oklahoma, etc.


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28 Feb 2024, 7:28 am

Harmonie wrote:
I don't know how to handle speech like this. I don't know about legal punishments, but he should absolutely be removed from his position of power just because of that alone. But then look what he went onto say after that. All of that Christian Nationalist BS, which is completely unconstitutional.
.

Hate speech is constitutionally protected so he can’t be arrested for it.

The other legislators can censor or expel him. So you can write to your state senator asking that they work towards a resolution of censor or expulsion. You can organize a protest outside that persons office. If your state senator still does not do anything vote for their opponent and help the opponents campaign.


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28 Feb 2024, 8:23 am

That is plain horrible what happened to him. I think it's good that the walk out happened. Hopefully the fogeys who run that school will get a hint that they are supposed to be protecting all students. They probably won't, though. The administrators are probably too dumb to get it.


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