In the United States, no criminal investigation into the suicide case of Nex Benedict, a non-binary teenager harassed in his high school

“This decision sends a frightening message that LGBTQ students cannot receive the same level of protection and justice as their peers

In the United States, no criminal investigation into the suicide case of Nex Benedict, a non-binary teenager harassed in his high school

“This decision sends a frightening message that LGBTQ students cannot receive the same level of protection and justice as their peers. » The American association Rainbow Youth Project USA reacted, Friday March 22, to the comments of the prosecutor of Tulsa County, in the conservative state of Oklahoma, in the south of the United States, who had declared the day before that no criminal charges would be filed against the teens involved in an altercation that left 16-year-old non-binary student Nex Benedict dead on February 8.

The term “non-binary” describes a person who identifies with neither the masculine nor the feminine gender and refuses to fit into this binary.

“When I review a report and decide to indict, I must be satisfied – like any prosecutor – that a crime has been committed and that I have a reasonable belief that a judge or jury would be convinced without reasonable doubt that a crime was committed,” justified prosecutor Steve Kunzweiler. “Based on all the evidence gathered, this fight was mutual,” he concluded.

On February 7, an altercation took place between Nex Benedict and three girls in the bathroom of their high school in Owasso, Oklahoma. In a video subsequently released on February 24 by law enforcement, Nex Benedict told police, from a hospital bed – on the day of the altercation – that he had thrown water on the three high school girls. who “laughed at us,” making fun of “the way we dress. The three then pounced on me.” According to his grandmother and legal guardian, Nex hit his head on the toilet floor and lost consciousness. However, the establishment refused to call for help and, after a visit to the hospital at the initiative of his family, the teenager was authorized by the nursing staff to return home.

But the next day, paramedics responded to a 911 call from Nex's home and attempted to resuscitate the teenager who had collapsed at his home, but were unsuccessful. They then rushed him to the hospital where he later died. The autopsy performed by the Tulsa Chief Medical Examiner's Office concluded that he committed suicide under the influence of a toxic mixture of medications, some of which are often used to treat depression.

The county attorney said Thursday, more than a month after the teen's death, that Owasso police also discovered a "suicide letter" written by Nex Benedict, although he refused to detail what the document said.

“Incomplete stories”

Family members, who did not dispute the report's conclusion, however, reported that prior to the February 7 altercation Nex had been the target of bullying at school for nearly a year, linked to the fact that they were non-binary. Furthermore, after reviewing the full autopsy report, the family stated, through their lawyer, that the document mentioned numerous injuries on his body, which testified to the seriousness of the attack.

“Rather than allow incomplete accounts to take hold and spread further, the Benedicts feel compelled to provide a summary of findings that have not yet been released by the medical examiner's office, particularly those that contradict the allegations according to which the attack against Nex would be insignificant,” the lawyer’s press release states.

Findings shared by the family from the full autopsy report detail a burst eye blood vessel, bruising and lacerations to the face and head, injuries to the back of the left hand and abrasions to the chest which would correspond to the cardiopulmonary resuscitation procedures performed by the paramedics on February 8 at Nex’s home.

“The consequence of a wave of hatred”

Nex Benedict “died shortly after being brutally attacked in his high school in Oklahoma,” the NGO Human Rights Campaign (HCR) denounced on February 21, in a letter asking the American Department of Education to launch investigations into the teenager's death. “Nex’s death is the natural consequence of a growing wave of hatred against LGBTQ people,” UNHCR said in its letter. In response, the ministry announced on March 1 that it was opening an “investigation” targeting local school authorities to determine whether they had “responded appropriately to accusations of gender-based harassment.”

The president of the NGO, Kelley Robinson, had called on the ministry to “act urgently to ensure that justice is done for Nex and that all students at Owasso High School and all schools in Oklahoma are at school. 'free from bullying, harassment and discrimination'.

Citing his family, the NGO also claimed that the student had started to suffer harassment after the adoption by Oklahoma of a law prohibiting transgender people from accessing toilets corresponding to the identity they have. refer to. Owasso Public Schools subsequently received a notice of investigation from federal authorities on the matter. But, in a press release, Tulsa County called the allegations unsubstantiated and unfounded.

“No one should have to deal with the harassment Nex suffered.”

The death of Nex Benedict sparked a wave of indignation in the United States, and led to calls for change in the way transgender and/or non-binary people are treated in the country. On March 14, US President Joe Biden wrote in a statement that he was “heartbroken” by the teenager’s death. “Nex Benedict, a kid who just wanted to be accepted, should still be with us today,” he said.

“Non-binary and transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know. But no one should have to be courageous just to be themselves,” added the American president, calling for an end to discrimination and to address “the suicide crisis that affects too many non-binary and transgender children.” . School bullying is “hurtful and cruel, and no one should have to face the harassment that Nex suffered,” he also said.

After the death of Nex Benedict, the NGO Rainbow Youth Project USA reported having received 349 calls from Oklahoma, from young people seeking psychological help, on its telephone crisis line between the 16th and on February 20, compared to 87 calls per week normally. 85% of these LGBTQIA youth reported experiencing bullying at school or online, and 79% feared for their physical safety.