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Local LGBTQ+ youth hard-hit by Oklahoma teen Nex Benedict’s death

Rainbow Room vigil attendees demand greater protection from bullying


They came to share their grief, their fear and their outrage.

Last month’s death of an Oklahoma non-binary teen a day after a fight in their school has drawn international attention and renewed calls for protection of LGBTQ+ people.

In Doylestown, several dozen people of all ages and gender identities gathered at the Rainbow Room last week to express not only their sorrow over 16-year-old Nex Benedict’s death, but also their anger.

“I’m tired of not doing anything,” said Robin Lyons, a student at Delaware Valley University who attended the candlelight vigil. Benedict’s death, they said, “hit me like a truck. I felt like I was looking at myself dying.”

Ameila Yaworski helped organize the Doylestown event. The Ursinus College student said she wanted to acknowledge “the pain (the death) causes and show support.”

Fighting back tears, one speaker said, “I hope you feel the loss of Nex as deeply as I do. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need to shout and scream for justice.”

Another young speaker who said they attend Central Bucks South High School told the gathering, “I cannot let my guard down…our common fear came true for Nex. They want us to cease to exist,” she said.

Marlene Pray, who founded the Rainbow Room, a center for LGBTQ+ youth, said board members from all 13 Bucks County school districts were invited to the vigil.

Many, Pray said, sent messages of support, including Central Bucks, Council Rock, New Hope-Solebury, Pennsbury and Quakertown.

Karen Smith, president of the Central Bucks school board, sent a letter, which CB student Agnes Kane read.

“We have won a battle in Central Bucks but this death sadly demonstrates the war against cruel and unjust homophobic policies is far from over,” said Smith, in part. “I will not stop fighting…we will prevail.”

Benedict, a 10th grader at Owasso High School, died Feb. 8, a day after telling their family they were involved in a fight at school in the girls’ bathroom. It still remains unclear if or how the fight contributed to the teen’s death, officials have said.

An early autopsy did not determine a cause of death but did state the youth did not die from trauma, according to police.

On Friday, following a request from the Human Rights Campaign, the U.S. Department of Education announced it is opening an investigation into whether the school district “failed to appropriately respond to alleged harassment of students.”

Police body cam footage shows Nex telling authorities that the day of the fight, they went to the bathroom “and I was talking with my friends, they were talking with their friends and we were laughing. And they had said something like, ‘Why do they laugh like that?’ And they were talking about us in front of us.”

Responding to those comments, Nex tells the officer they poured water from their water bottle on the students and that’s when things grew violent. They came at Nex and grabbed at their hair, Nex says. Nex was then able to grab one of the girls and threw her into a paper towel dispenser, they say. Nex eventually got thrown onto the ground and the other students proceeded to beat them up, Nex says in the video, according to reporting by multiple media outlets.

The fight was broken up by students and a faculty member, police have said. All students walked to the assistant principal’s office and the nurse’s office, police said. It’s unclear when Nex went to the hospital.

Due to federal privacy laws, Owasso school officials said they are unable to say what disciplinary actions were taken at the time.

A GoFundMe has been established on behalf of Nex and their family.

In an earlier statement, the Benedict family said the early details about the incident are “troubling at best.”

“We urge those tasked with investigating and prosecuting all potentially liable parties to do so fully, fairly and expediently,” the family said. “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.”

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