'We Stand With You': Vice President Harris, White House Comment On Death Of Owasso Teen

United States Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have addressed the death of Owasso teen Nex Benedict.

Friday, February 23rd 2024, 3:50 pm

By: David Prock, News On 6

United States Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have addressed the death of Owasso teen Nex Benedict.

Harris took to X, formerly known as Twitter on Thursday night saying that she and President Biden stood with the family.

"My heart goes out to Nex Benedict’s family, friends, and their entire community. To the LGBTQI+ youth who are hurting and are afraid right now: President Joe Biden and I see you, we stand with you, and you are not alone."

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed news and promoted the 9-8-8 mental health line for anyone dealing with bullying.

"So I want to address some devastating news out of Oklahoma. As a parent, I was absolutely heartbroken to learn about Nex Benedict's death. Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported at school. Our hearts are with Nex Benedict's family, friends, and the entire school community in the wake of this horrific and gut-wrenching tragedy.
I know that for many LGBTQ-plus students across the country, this may feel personal and deeply, deeply painful. There's always someone you can talk to, if you're going through a hard time and need support. The president and his administration, launch the 988 line to help and we have a line dedicated to serving LGBTQ+ young people that can be reached by dialing 988 and pressing three. Through devastating tragedies like these, we must support each other and lift one another up."

Story Timeline: What Has Been Reported About How Nex Benedict Died?

Nex Benedict, a non-binary student who attended Owasso High School died on February 8, the day after they were involved in a physical altercation in a campus bathroom.

Owasso Public School officials said that the fight was broken up in less than two minutes by other students and a staff member. They said everyone involved walked to the principal's office and nurse's office. They say each student was given a health assessment by a school nurse, and the school called all the parents and let them know they could file police reports, and School Resource Officers were also available.

School leaders say they determined none of the students needed to be taken to a hospital by ambulance but recommended to Benedict's parent that they receive a further inspection. Benedict's parent did call the police later that day from the hospital, wanting to make a report.

Police say Benedict was released from the hospital that day but was rushed back the next day and died. A judge signed the search warrant less than 24 hours after Benedict died, giving police authority to collect evidence at the school.

Full Story: Search Warrant Served At Owasso School Day After Nex Benedict's Death

Documents say investigators took 137 pictures of the school and inside the bathroom, collected two swabs of stains on the bathroom floor, and retrieved records and documents of all students involved in the altercation. The search warrant says Owasso Police Officers initially suspected foul play was involved, but that was written before the medical examiner did the autopsy.

Many on social media speculated that Benedict was murdered or killed because of the altercation, but police have said that the initial report from the Medical Examiner indicates that Benedict "did not die as a result of trauma."

Full Story: 'Did Not Die As A Result Of Trauma': Owasso Police Detail Nex Benedict's Death, Family Issues New Statement

The medical examiner will determine the cause and manner of death which could take months, as they await toxicology results. Police are investigating and will turn over their reports to the district attorney's office, who will decide what, if any, charges are to be filed.

The Public Response To Nex Benedict Investigation

The public response to Benedict's death has been overwhelming, with thousands of messages to police, the school, and members of the media. Several vigils have been held and more are planned to remember them.

Nex Vigils 02-23-2024

Both Public and government officials have addressed the case and protestors attended the monthly state school board meeting to speak on Benedict's behalf.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters made the following statement at the meeting about Benedict's death:

"The first that I would like to address is the tragedy in Owasso. Losing a student is always extremely difficult. And we should be keeping the loss of families, and communities in our prayers. This is a heartbreaking tragedy. And it's difficult for so many folks over there, and we want to be there to comfort them as best we can. We've had a lot of folks that have rushed to have an opinion and judgment there in the wake of a tragedy. What I would ask is that we wait, while there's little information available, and there'll be more that comes out here for the next few weeks, as law enforcement is doing their investigations. And once that's done, I think we need to wait for those things to be done before we pass judgment. And we're always going to focus on the security and safety of our kids. So we'll be looking at that moving forward."

The larger conversation online about Benedict's death has become about bullying in schools, specifically bullying that targets non-binary, trans, and other LGBTQ+ groups. Some organizations such as the ACLU and GLAAD have even asserted that policies and rhetoric put forward by Oklahoma's elected officials emboldens discriminatory behavior.

Statement from GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis:

“Oklahoma's top leaders have a documented history of baseless legislation and harmful rhetoric against vulnerable students like Nex Benedict, a record that endangers students and does nothing to improve education. Reporters need to ask them what they’ve done and will do to create safe learning environments for everyone. Policies that exclude and smear people make every student, family and community less safe. Every American must demand that elected officials stop using their offices to bully children and work to protect them instead.”


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