Sixteen.

Sophomore year, thinking about the future. Stressed about school and tests.

Sixteen.

Getting beaten in the bathroom for being fed up with months of bullying. For being different.

Nex Benedict was 16 years old and they died on Feb. 8.

They don’t get a future. They never get to leave a bigoted state. They will never go to college or live somewhere they feel safe.

An outpouring of support has followed their death, with vigils and protests across the country. Nex was nonbinary, and their death is the most recent in a long line of hate. 

They died a day after a fight in a school bathroom. The fight started because Nex, fed up with being bullied, dumped water on another student. The student, as well as two others, proceeded to beat Nex.

They were from Owasso, Oklahoma. Oklahoma isn’t known for being accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, especially with the recent appointment of Chaya Raichick, owner of the “LibsofTikTok” account, as a member of the Oklahoma Library Media Advisory Committee. She has compared LGBTQ+ content in books to porn. According to The Washington Post, she’s proud of the violence she’s sparked, saying it “makes (her) feel really important.”

Raichick was appointed by Superintendent Ryan Walters, who’s known for his bigotry towards the LGBTQ+ community. Together, they’ve made Oklahoma schools uninviting for LGBTQ+ students.

Sean Cummings, an Oklahoman politician, criticized Walters and Raichick for creating a hostile environment during a public meeting held by the Oklahoma Department of Education, according to The Advocate. 

“You and your rhetoric and your inability to do anything as a board here are partially responsible for emboldening bullies to jump a (student) in the bathroom,” Cummings said during the meeting.

The Owasso Police Department has said that Nex’s death was not due to trauma, based on a preliminary report. According to The Washington Post, Nex’s parents are doubtful. Nex sustained a head injury during the fight.

This is unacceptable.

Children should not fear for their life because they are different from what society has deemed “normal.” If you are going to be an educator, you should not foster a hostile environment. What happened in Owasso is appalling. My heart goes out to the Benedict family and their community.

We have to do better. We have a responsibility to leave this world better than we found it.

If you really want to “protect the children,” then stop this shit from happening.

Lynn Spahr is a Hutchinson sophomore studying journalism and is the Opinion Page Editor.

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