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Biden urges action against bullying after death of nonbinary teen Nex Benedict by suicide

President Joe Biden on Thursday drew attention to anti-LGBTQ discrimination and urged schools and parents “to take reports of bullying seriously,” a day after the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of 16-year-old Nex Benedict a suicide.

Biden said he was “heartbroken by the recent loss of Nex Benedict,” a nonbinary teen who died a day after a fight with other students in an Oklahoma high school bathroom early last month.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma officials released a one-page summary autopsy report that listed the teen’s probable cause of death as “diphenhydramine and fluoxetine combined toxicity.”

Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, is an over-the-counter antihistamine used for allergy relief. Fluoxetine is an FDA-approved antidepressant sold as Prozac.

Calling nonbinary and transgender people “some of the bravest Americans” he knows, Biden noted Nex was just a kid who “wanted to be accepted” and who “should still be here with us today.”

Shortly after the release of the report, which doesn’t offer details on the amount of drugs in the teen’s system, LGBTQ rights groups demanded more answers from Oklahoma authorities and repeated calls for a “full and complete investigation” into the teen’s death.

“Nex Benedict’s family and the entire state of Oklahoma deserve far more answers and accountability from those charged with keeping Nex and all youth safe,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, told the Daily News in an email.

After the release of the medical examiner’s findings, Owasso Police said investigators saw “many indications that this death was the result of suicide” from the beginning of the investigation, reiterating a Feb. 21 statement that the teen had not died “as a result of trauma.”

Nex, who friends said identified as transgender and used both he and they pronouns, died a day after a violent confrontation with three other students in a bathroom at Owasso High School.

Bodycam footage released by Owasso Police last month shows the teen telling an officer they “got jumped” by people who had been “antagonizing” them at school.

Nex was speaking with the officer from a hospital room next to their mother, Sue Benedict. The officer appeared to discourage Nex and their family from reporting the incident.

The teen was later released and went home, but the next day their mother called paramedics to say her child’s breathing was shallow and their eyes were rolling back, according to a 911 call.

“Nex died one day after being beaten unconscious in a school bathroom, and following more than a year of bullying and harassment at school,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

According to Robinson, several Owasso Public Schools students and parents have since come forward to criticize a “culture of bullying and harassment” that is pervasive in the district. They also said “many within the school had actual knowledge that it was occurring and took no steps to fix it.”

“No one should face the bullying that Nex did,” Biden said Thursday, calling the behavior “hurtful and cruel.’

“In memory of Nex, we must all recommit to our work to end discrimination and address the suicide crisis impacting too many nonbinary and transgender children,” he said. “My prayers are with Nex’s family, friends, and all who loved them — and to all LGBTQI+ Americans for whom this tragedy feels so personal, know this: I will always have your back.”

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