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Owasso police say nonbinary student's death not due to physical injuries from school fight

via Facebook
Nex Benedict

Updated Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:16 a.m.

A 16-year-old Owasso High School student who died Feb. 8 after a fight at school did not pass away due to physical injuries, police said Wednesday.

The Owasso Police Department issued a statement saying that while full results are pending, preliminary information from the medical examiner say Nex Benedict "did not die as a result of trauma."

The statement comes after days of intense attention on the death of the nonbinary student who was often the target of bullies, according to their mother.

Read the article from Tuesday, Feb. 20:

A community in the Tulsa area is waiting to learn more details in the death of a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who died Feb. 8.

Sue Benedict, the mother of Nex Benedict, said the family is expecting a report from the medical examiner to learn more about how Nex died. In a short interview with Public Radio Tulsa, Sue Benedict said that Nex collapsed at home after seeking medical attention for injuries sustained in a fight at school on Feb. 7, but that she is not certain yet how much that altercation contributed to Nex’s death.

Benedict said school staff didn’t call an ambulance and that medical professionals performed a cursory exam before discharging Nex.

Owasso Public Schools said in a statement released Tuesday that an ambulance was not deemed necessary for the less than two minute restroom altercation broken up by other students and staff, but "it was recommended to one parent that their student visit a medical facility for further examination" after a health assessment was conducted on each student.

OPS rebutted a circulating idea that Nex was unable to walk after the fight, saying that each student involved "walked under their own power" to the assistant principal and nurse.

OPS said "speculation and misinformation" have intensified in recent days.

"We understand that for many, additional questions remain, however these are the facts that we are able to communicate at this juncture. We will continue to cooperate fully with the Owasso Police Department’s investigation," the statement reads.

Nex was often the target of bullies, Benedict said. The family was still learning about Nex’s nonbinary identity and sometimes called them by their birth name Dagny at home. Benedict said the family is facing harassment and mounting misinformation as they try to cope with their grief.

“I just want my child back,” she said.

A GoFundMe raised almost $30,000 on behalf of the family, but contributions briefly ceased at Benedict's request because she said she was alarmed by a flood of misinformation, like untrue claims that Nex was stabbed. The fundraiser was reopened and has collected more than $55,000 as of Wednesday.

Liz Testerman was a substitute teacher at Owasso Public Schools for three years. She said OPS has a real problem with bullying.

“There’s always been bullies and we’re always going to have bullies and I understand that," said Testerman. "But Owasso needs to care about more than just the student athletes making a name for themselves."

Testerman said the community is tired of waiting for answers, but that in any case, "bullying is what killed Nex."

The Owasso Police Department said it was notified of Nex’s death after their second trip to the hospital on Feb. 8 when they were pronounced dead. Police emphasized that misinformation about the case is swirling and that an investigation is ongoing.

This story was updated on Feb. 21 at 10:05 a.m. to reflect the family reopened the fundraiser.

This story was updated on Feb. 20 at 1:57 p.m. to include a statement from the school district.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.
Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.