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Death of non-binary student, 16, in Oklahoma spotlights anti-trans laws in some US states – Times of India

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HOUSTON: An altercation at an Oklahoma public school involving a 16-year-old non-binary student who died the next day began after the student “poured water” on girls who had been making fun of the teenager, according to a body camera video interview released by the Owasso police department late Friday.
The clip of the 16-year-old student, Nex Benedict, talking to an Owasso officer provided the fullest account yet of what took place inside the girls’ bathroom Feb.7. The altercation drew scrutiny after gay and transgender rights groups focused attention on Nex’s death as an example of the dangers faced by gender-nonconforming students.
Nex, who used they and them pronouns with peers, described how they “blacked out” while being beaten on the floor of the bathroom by three girls who had previously mocked Nex and their friends “because of the way that we dress”. “We were laughing. And they had said something like, ‘Why do they laugh like that?’ They were talking about us in front of us. And so I went up there and I poured water on them” from a plastic water bottle, Nex told the officer. “And then all three of them came at me.” And the department provided audio of the 911 calls made by Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother, on the day of the altercation and then on Feb. 8 as she sought an ambulance for Nex. Benedict told the dispatcher that Nex kept saying they had a headache.
The videos did not answer the question of how Nex died. The police department has said that the death is still under probe but that preliminary results of an autopsy found Nex “did not die as a result of trauma.” The death of a non-binary student after an altercation at school prompted scrutiny of Oklahoma’s restrictive policies for LGBTQ students, including new laws regarding bathroom usage and barring gender-transition care for minors.
The state superintendent of schools, Ryan Walters, who has been criticised for his anti-transgender rhetoric, said the death was a tragedy but did not alter his views, including on bathroom use. Rights groups and transgender students have said the political rhetoric by leaders in Republican-dominated American states has been viewed by some students as permission to harass and bully their classmates.





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