Oklahoma students stage walkout as protests over Nex Benedict’s death spread

People gather outside the Stonewall Inn for a memorial and vigil for the Oklahoma teenager who died following a fight in a high school bathroom on February 26, 2024 in New York City. Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old who identified as nonbinary and used they/them pronouns, died a day after the altercation in the school bathroom. One protester is holding a sign that says 'Nex, killed by hate'

Over a dozen former classmates of Oklahoma student Nex Benedict staged a walkout on Monday (26 February) to protest his death and show support for the school’s LGBTQ+ community.

Nex Benedict, who was gender non-conforming and used he/they pronouns according to his friends (as confirmed in this NBC interview), died on 8 February, one day after telling their family they had been involved in a physical altercation in the toilets at Owasso High School.

An official cause of death is “currently pending”, and Benedict’s family are conducting their own investigation into the teen’s death. An Owasso police representative has said that murder charges are not “off the cards.”

Students held up signs stating “You Are Loved” and “Protect Queer Kids” as they gathered at an intersection across from the school.

“There is a community here in this city that does exist, and we see them, and they are loved,” organiser Cassidy Brown, an Owasso graduate, told KTUL.

Owasso Public Schools have faced criticism for not reporting the fight to police or seeking emergency medical treatment for Nex Benedict in the aftermath of the altercation.

A protester holds a sign saying 'Protect Trans Kids' and 'Trans Youth Matter' at a vigil and protest at the Stonewall Inn
Another photograph of protesters at the vigil at the historic Stonewall Inn (Getty)

On Monday night (26 February), about 500 people also gathered at the Stonewall Inn to reflect on the loss of Benedict. Ramirez, who starred in And Just Like That and played Dr Callie Torres in hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, gave an emotional speech, reinforcing that Benedict’s lost life was “valuable”. 

Non-binary actor Sara Ramirez has criticised celebrities such as Dave Chappelle for “fostering a culture of hatred and intolerance toward non-binary youth”, at vigil in memory of Nex Benedict held at the famous Stonewall Inn, in New York.

Ramirez called out people with large social media followings such as comedian Chappelle, who mocked trans people in his latest Netflix special, The Dreamer, and Elon Musk, who has overseen an increase of anti-LGBTQ+ statements since acquiring Twitter, now known as X.

The star also called out Libs of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik, who said she doesn’t believe in gender-affirming care in response to being asked about Benedict’s death. 

“There is an infrastructure of anti-trans hate all around us. It has to stop,” Ramirez continued.

“It is our moral and humanitarian obligation to speak up, show up and take action against the anti-trans machine. To all of our trans, non-binary and queer youth, I want to say: I love you.”

Brock Crawford, a spokesperson for Owasso Public Schools, told HuffPost: “As a district, the safety and security of our students is our top priority and we are committed to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. Bullying in any form is unacceptable.

“We take reports of bullying very seriously and have policies and procedures to address such behavior.”