Justice for Nex Benedict

February 26, 2024

Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Charles McCall, President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate, Greg Treat, Senate Minority Leader, Kay Floyd, House Minority Leader, Cyndi Munson, Senate Education Committee Chair, Adam Pugh, House Education Committee Chair, Rhonda Baker

Oklahoma State Legislature
2300 N Lincoln Blvd,
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Subject: Request to Investigate Oklahoma Department of Education and remove State Superintendent Ryan Walters

Our community has experienced a terrible, yet avoidable loss. On February 7, Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old non-binary and Choctaw student, was brutally assaulted in the bathroom at Owasso High School, and died the next day. Nex’s death comes at a time when politicians from around the country–including Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction–have pushed forward a record number of anti-2SLGBTQI+ bills and policies which disproportionately target and impact transgender, nonbinary, and gender expansive youth.

The undersigned organizations call on the Oklahoma Legislature to immediately remove Ryan Walters from his position as Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction and to begin an investigation into the Oklahoma Department of Education to determine what actions and policies have led to a culture where rampant harassment of 2SLGBTQI+ students has been allowed to go unchecked.

Superintendent Ryan Walters is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and hate against the 2SLGBTQI+ community in Oklahoma schools. Just a month ago, he passed an emergency rule to prevent an Oklahoma teen who was fearful of being bullied from changing his gender on school files. He called for the firing of a principal who performed in drag on weekends, which led to violent threats against the educator.

Walters also empowered other anti-2SLGBTQI+ extremists to have power over Oklahoma schools. In 2022, Chaya Raichik, the creator of the extremist anti-LGBTQ social media account “Libs of TikTok”, targeted a teacher at Nex’s school for their support of 2SLGTBQI+ students; this teacher later resigned. Last year, Raichik posted a video attacking an Oklahoma school librarian who supports 2SLGBTQI+ students, resulting in six days of bomb threats against the school. Instead of standing up for the students and educators in Oklahoma, Walters uplifted the post about the librarian and appointed Raichik to the state’s library board, despite her not living in Oklahoma and having no credentials for the position. Superintendent Walters’ reprehensible conduct shows a wilful rejection of his duty to protect the health and welfare of the children in Oklahoma’s public schools and instead has created an environment that allows for hostility and harm for youthlike Nex.

In the weeks following Nex’s death, numerous youth have come forward to detail the rampant harassment of Oklahoma’s 2SLGBTQI+ students by peers, teachers, and administrators. We are outraged that a climate of hate and bigotry has been not only allowed to thrive, but encouraged by the person who is responsible for education in the state of Oklahoma. State officials must be held accountable for bringing the politics of hate into Oklahoma’s schools and making our most vulnerable youth pay the price.

Nex’s life demands justice. All students, including all Two-Spirit, gender non-conforming, transgender and non-binary students like Nex, have the right to feel safe and protected while attending school. We urge you to protect the students of Oklahoma and immediately correct course by impeaching and removing Superintendent Walters and investigating the impact of Walters’ policies and rhetoric on Oklahoma students and schools. It is imperative that all students in the state are supported.

Jason Scott

LGBT Community Network


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