Death of transgender student Nex Benedict ruled suicide by medical examiner

The teen’s death has rallied LGBTQ advocates across the country who say an onslaught of legislation targeting the community has made trans students less safe at school.


The death of Oklahoma student Nex Benedict has been ruled a suicide, according to a medical examiner’s report released Wednesday. 

The 16-year-old, who was transgender and used he and they pronouns, according to friends and family, died Feb. 8, a day after a fight at Owasso High School. His name has become a rallying cry among LGBTQ activists, who argue that an onslaught of legislation targeting the community has made schools less safe for queer and trans students like Nex.

Nex had reportedly told his mother that he faced bullying at school over his gender identity, and body-camera footage released last month by police from the hours after the school fight shows Nex lying in a hospital bed. In the video, he tells a police officer how three students “jumped” him after he threw water on them because they were bullying him and his friend for the way they dressed.

Nex Benedict outside the family’s home in Owasso, Okla., in Dec. 2023.Sue Benedict via AP file

The Owasso Police Department released preliminary information from an autopsy report on Feb. 21 that they said shows Nex’s death was not the result of trauma. Days later, a spokesperson for the department clarified that the fight had not been ruled out as having contributed to or caused his death. 

The medical examiner’s report listed a probable cause of death as “combined toxicity” from two drugs, one of which is available over the counter and the other by prescription.

In a statement posted on its Facebook account Wednesday, following the release of the medical examiner’s report, the Owasso Police Department wrote, in part: “From the beginning of this investigation, Owasso Police observed many indications that this death was the result of suicide. However, investigators did not wish to confirm that information without the final results being presented by the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.”

Margaret Coates, the superintendent for Owasso Public Schools, acknowledged Nex's cause of death on Wednesday and encouraged students struggling with the news to seek school counseling.

"The loss of Nex, a member of the Ram Family and the Owasso community, is devastating," Coates wrote in a letter to families and educators that was shared with NBC News. "We understand that the information released today may bring up additional thoughts, feelings and emotions for students and staff members."

An attorney for the Benedict family, Jacob Biby, said in a statement Thursday that Nex's loved ones don't want the suicide ruling to overshadow other findings by the medical examiner, which include multiple contusions, lacerations and abrasions on his head and neck.

"Rather than allow incomplete accounts to take hold and spread any further, the Benedicts feel compelled to provide a summary of those findings which have not yet been released by the Medical Examiner’s Office, particularly those that contradict allegations of the assault on Nex being insignificant," the statement said. "As outlined in the full report, the Medical Examiner found numerous areas of physical trauma over Nex’s body that evidence the severity of the assault."

Owasso High School students organized a walkout on Feb. 26 to protest what they described as a pervasive culture of bullying that often goes unpunished. Kane, one of the organizers of the walkout who asked to go by first name only to protect his privacy, said at the time that students had speculated that Nex may have died by suicide. But, to Kane, who is nonbinary, the key contributing factor to Nex’s death was bullying.

“There’s been bullying issues. This time, the bullying has gone so far that a student has passed,” Kane said ahead of last month’s walkout. “To me, it doesn’t matter if Nex passed from a traumatic brain injury or if they passed from suicide. What matters is the fact that they died after getting bullied, and that is the story for so many other students. I’ve been close to ending it myself because of bullying. It’s not new for so many students.” 

LGBTQ advocates and the medical community have long warned that queer youths face disproportionate rates of suicidal ideation.

In a survey conducted in 2022 by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, more than 40% of LGBTQ people age 13-24 said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year, with trans and nonbinary respondents reporting even higher rates. That same survey of approximately 28,000 LGBTQ young people found 14% had attempted suicide within the past year, including 1 in 5 transgender respondents.

Earlier this month, the Department of Education opened an investigation into whether Nex’s high school failed to appropriately respond to sex-based harassment. The investigation was opened after the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, filed a complaint with the department after Nex’s death. A spokesperson for Owasso Public Schools, Brock Crawford, said at the time that the investigation was “not supported by the facts and is without merit.”

Kelley Robinson, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, reiterated Wednesday the organization's call for an investigation into Nex's death.

"Nex was failed by so many and should still be here today," she said in a statement. "We hold their family in our hearts as they grapple with the devastating reality that their beloved child, a teen with a bright future, is no longer making this world a brighter place."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at You can also visit for additional support.

If you are an LGBTQ young person in crisis, feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 1-866-488-7386 or the Rainbow Youth Project at 1-317-643-4888.