Anti-LGBTQ+ Westboro Baptist Church to stage protest at Nex Benedict’s school

Oklahoma teenager Nex Benedict died following an alleged assault in February

The Westboro Baptist Church has said members will stage a protest at Owasso High School, in Oklahoma, where Nex Benedict, a gender non-confirming teenager who died last month, was a pupil. 

Benedict, who was, according to friends, Two Spirit and used he/they pronouns, died on 8 February after reportedly being involved in a physical altercation in the toilets at the school the day before.

While an official cause of death has not yet been given, US federal officials have confirmed they are opening an investigation into the school district.

Owasso High School has faced criticism for allegedly failing to immediately report the fight to police or seeking emergency medical treatment for the 16-year-old student after the incident.

Now, Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group notorious for picketing funerals with “God Hates F*gs” signs, is set to stage a protest at the school on Wednesday (6 March), LGBTQ Nation reported.

In a news release on its website, which misgenders Benedict throughout, the group currently lists two “public preaching” events in the area scheduled for Wednesday, and even blames the teen for his own death.

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Responding to the news of the protests, Owasso Public Schools (OPS) superintendent Dr Margaret Coates said members of the Church would not be allowed on to district property, and that the school district takes the protests very seriously.

“OPS is aware that Westboro Baptist Church, an activist organisation based in Kansas that routinely engages in disruptive protests, has plans to visit Owasso on Wednesday,” she said. “District leaders are working closely with law enforcement partners to monitor the situation, and I will provide you with updates as needed.”

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'
People gather outside the famous Stonewall Inn in New York for a memorial and vigil for Nex Benedict (Getty)

According to a police statement, Benedict was taken to hospital on 7 February after an alleged altercation at the school, and suffered several injuries, including scratches and bruises to the head.

Police were reportedly not aware of the incident until after he had been taken to hospital.

The following afternoon, Owasso Fire Department medics responded to a medical emergency involving Benedict, who was reportedly taken to a paediatric emergency room, where he later died. 

Although a cause of death is still pending, a police representative has said murder charges are not “off the cards”.

The LGBTQ+ community was quick to share tributes after Benedict’s death, with more than a dozen pupils staging a school walkout on 26 February to protest and show support for the queer pupils.

Vice-president Kamala Harris also shared her condolences, writing on Twitter/X on 23 February that the LGBTQ+ community is not alone.

“My heart goes out to Nex Benedict’s family, friends and their entire community,” she wrote. “To the LGBTQI+ youth who are hurting and are afraid right now: president Joe Biden and I see you, we stand with you.”