Human Rights Campaign President Asks for Full Investigations by DOJ and Department of Education into Brutal, Senseless Attacks Against Nex Benedict

by Delphine Luneau

Departments of Justice, Education Called to Look Into Harassment and Violence Against Non-Binary Teen Who Died After Being Assaulted in Bathroom at Their High School

Anti-Transgender Discrimination in Politics Running Rampant in Oklahoma, Creating Culture of Harassment and Dehumanization of LGBTQ+ Youth

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — this week sent letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona calling on their respective departments to launch investigations into the circumstances of the tragic death of non-binary teenager Nex Benedict following a brutal assault they suffered at their high school in Oklahoma.

The letters from Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson note that the departments each have enforcement mechanisms at their disposal to prevent similar tragedies from taking place in the future and to help hold accountable those responsible for Nex’s tragic death.

In the letter to AG Garland, Robinson says:

“Nex’s life demands justice. The Department has various tools available for addressing anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence, including through the bringing of a hate crimes investigation and potentially charges that could help hold the perpetrators of these horrific acts against Nex accountable for their hate-fueled violence. In addition, the Department should work with the Department of Education to support their assessment of violations of Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause.”

In the letter to Secretary Cardona, Robinson says:

“Schools have an obligation to provide equal educational opportunities, including safe and affirming learning environments for the well-being of all students. We are deeply concerned about the failure of Owasso High School to address documented instances of bullying, violence, and harassment against Nex, which occurred in earnest over the course of the previous school year and were in violation of Nex’s rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. We therefore urge the Department to urgently investigate whether Owasso High School unlawfully failed to address the discrimination and harassment to which Nex was subjected. In addition, we call upon the Department to conduct a Title IX compliance investigation for Owasso High School.”

Both letters also note that Oklahoma’s state government has become increasingly hostile to the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, listing Oklahoma among the top five worst states for anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination legislation. The letters add, “Nex’s family recently noted that Nex had first begun being bullied after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed the bill into law that forbids trans and gender expansive youth to access restrooms consistent with their gender identity.”

“We believe that Nex’s death is the natural consequence of a growing wave of hatred against LGBTQ+ people,” both letters say. “This hatred is being fueled by an unprecedented, coordinated attempt to eliminate the rights and visibility of our communities across the country, which recently led us to declare a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people for the first time in our nearly half-century history.”

The full text of the letter to Attorney General Garland can be found here.

The full text of the letter to Secretary Cardona can be found here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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