Federal Investigation Targets Gender-Based Harassment in Nex Benedict’s School District

The Department of Education has launched a probe into the Oklahoma school district’s handling of harassment allegations following the death of 16-year-old transgender student Nex Benedict. This investigation seeks to uncover whether the district’s actions, or lack thereof, violated Title IX and failed to protect students from gender discrimination and harassment.”

Federal Investigation Targets Gender-Based Harassment in Nex Benedict's School District
Federal Investigation Targets Gender-Based Harassment in Nex Benedict’s School District

Introduction to the Investigation

The U.S. Department of Education has initiated a formal investigation into the actions of an Oklahoma school district, specifically concerning its response to allegations of sexual harassment. This inquiry focuses on the educational environment of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old transgender student.

Background of the Case

A letter, which NBC News acquired, reveals the Department’s investigation aims to ascertain if the Oklahoma school district, where Benedict was a high school student, failed to adequately address incidents of sexual harassment. This action follows a complaint lodged with the Department of Education after the unfortunate demise of Benedict on February 8.

The Incident Leading to the Investigation

The catalyst for this investigation was Benedict’s death, which occurred a day following an altercation in a restroom with three fellow students at Owasso High School. This incident garnered extensive media coverage and sparked global criticism from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

The Complaint and Call for Action

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a leading LGBTQ rights organization, submitted a complaint to the Department of Education. The complaint urged an investigation into the school district for neglecting the discrimination and harassment Benedict faced, potentially violating Title IX. Title IX is a crucial civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs receiving federal funding.

Investigation Objectives

Karen E. Mains, the Department of Education’s general prosecutor, outlined in a letter to HRC that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) would conduct the investigation. The focus is on whether the school district’s response to the harassment allegations met Title IX requirements.

Current Status and Responses

As of now, neither the Department of Education nor the Owasso Public Schools have issued comments regarding the investigation. The circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death, including the extent to which the altercation contributed to it, remain uncertain.

Details of the Incident

Body camera footage from a police officer’s interview with Benedict on February 7—the day of the altercation—reveals Benedict’s account of being attacked by three students in a bathroom. Benedict mentioned retaliating by throwing water at the students after they insulted him and his friends.

Community Response

Kelly Robinson, President of HRC, expressed the community’s demand for clarity and justice following Benedict’s tragic death. The organization acknowledges the Department of Education’s decision to investigate and emphasizes the urgent need for action to ensure the safety and well-being of all students in Oklahoma schools from bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

This overview seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the ongoing investigation into the Oklahoma school district’s handling of sexual harassment allegations, highlighting the broader implications for LGBTQ rights and safety in educational settings.

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