© 2024 Public Radio Tulsa
800 South Tucker Drive
Tulsa, OK 74104
(918) 631-2577

A listener-supported service of The University of Tulsa
classical 88.7 | public radio 89.5
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Education Department to investigate Owasso Public Schools

The United States Department of Education is opening an investigation for possible discrimination at Owasso Public Schools following the death of Nex Benedict.

Benedict, a nonbinary 16-year-old Owasso High School student, died in February the day after a fight with three girls in a school bathroom. While police have said Benedict didn't die of trauma, the final autopsy report has not been released.

In a letter to the Human Rights Campaign, Department of Education officials told the LGBTQ+ advocacy group that the federal agency’s Office of Civil Rights was opening a probe to determine if the school district responded to student harassment complaints in compliance with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and disability.

The probe is in response to HRC filing a complaint with the Department of Education alleging “that the District discriminated against students by failing to respond appropriately to sex-based harassment.”

HRC President Kelley Robinson filed the complaint after Benedict’s death.

“We appreciate the Department of Education responding to our complaint and opening an investigation–we need them to act urgently so there can be justice for Nex, and so that all students at Owasso High School and every school in Oklahoma can be safe from bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” Robinson said in a prepared statement.

An OPS spokesperson said Friday that the district will cooperate with the feds, but believes HRC's complaint "is not supported by the facts and is without merit."

Owasso School Resource Officer Caleb Thompson acknowledged the fight Benedict had gotten into had “criminal-type actions” and said the district is supposed to call OPD in such instances.

Thompson said the district “dropped the ball.”

OPS spokesperson Jordan Korphage said students involved in fights are told they may file a police report. They may then meet with a school resource officer.

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.