Local ACLU Outraged at School’s Handling of 16-Year-Old’s Assault, Death 

By Helen Shamamyan

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement last week addressing the case of Bridge v. Oklahoma State Department of Education and comments by the ACLU of Oklahoma and Lambda Legal about the violent assault and death of Nex Benedict in the restroom of Owasso High School.

“We are gravely heartbroken to learn about the death of Nex Benedict and extend our overwhelming condolences to their family, their friends, and the entire transgender community across Oklahoma. The assault on Nex is an inevitable result of the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory legislation targeting Oklahoma trans youth,” said the ACLU-Oklahoma/Lambda statement.

The groups added, “We challenged Oklahoma’s law requiring schools to discriminate against students like Nex because we believe every student should have the safe and affirming environment they need to thrive, and policies that put transgender students in danger make schools less safe places for all students.”

The ACLU and Lambda Legal charged they “are deeply troubled by reports the school failed to respond appropriately to the altercation that preceded Nex’s death and demand a thorough, open investigation into the matter.”

According to the US edition of the Independent, which covered the incident, the mother of the 16-year-old victim “didn’t know how bad it had gotten,” in regard to the bullying and torment.

The attack occurred Feb. 7 in a campus restroom, from which “Nex suffered severe head injuries during a ‘physical altercation,’” infuriating their mother further because the school “failed to call an ambulance or the police…then informed her Nex was being suspended for two weeks,” as recounted in the Independent article.

In the ACLU publication, “Response to Death of Nex Benedict From Bridge v. Oklahoma State Board of Education Legal Team,” the text recalls Oklahoma’s SB 615 was signed into law in May of 2022.

The measure required “all public and public charter schools in the state that serve pre-K through 12th-grade students to designate multiple occupancy restrooms at school for the exclusive use of either the male or the female sex, as designated on individuals’ original birth certificates.”

However, a federal lawsuit was filed by the parties named in September of the same year on behalf of three transgender students who wished to challenge this new law, targeting the law’s discriminatory language and consequences, as detailed in the press release, “Transgender Public School Students Sue to Block Discriminatory Oklahoma School Facilities Law,” found on the ACLU website.

According to statements recorded in the statement, ACLU attorney, Nicholas Guillory, and Memorial Law Fellow, Tyran Garner, charged, “Oklahoma has launched another cruel and unconstitutional attack on a most-vulnerable population—transgender school children.

“It is sad that anti-transgender state legislators nationwide keep singling out transgender students for harmful, discriminatory treatment, notwithstanding that we and our allies have successfully quashed these efforts wherever they have popped up.”

“There is no valid reason to prohibit transgender students from using the same facilities as their peers. Doing so is stigmatizing and damaging. It interferes with their ability to learn at school and can lead to physical harms as well,” said Jon Davidson, an ACLU senior attorney.

One of the plaintiffs of the federal case, Andy Bridge, said, “I am a boy, and while living authentically hasn’t always been easy, it’s given me a sense of relief and happiness. Being able to use the boys’ restroom might seem like a small thing to others, but it is a vital step in my transition.

“Being barred from using it leaves me singled out and excluded from the rest of my friends and classmates, but also feeling like I’m being told that I’m not worthy of the same respect and dignity as everyone else.”

About The Author

I am a student from Southern California that's graduating this year from UC Berkeley. Prior to coming here, I worked as a court watch/ law clerk for a PEO in worker's comp cases of California warehouses. I reported the hearing summaries and outcomes to the employer and maintained correspondence with the attornies prior to and after each hearing on behalf of my boss. I have nearly completed by Bachelors in English, and I am planning on taking a break year before delving into law school to study civil rights defense.

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    The US Department of Justice should fully investigate this tragic death to determine if any of the involved parties committed civil rights violations that warrant prosecution.

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