How To Talk To Kids About The Death Of Nex Benedict

The 16-year-old student died after a fight in a school bathroom. We need to talk about it.

Nex Benedict Nex Benedict | GOFUNDME

Like many of you, I’ve been reading about Nex Benedict this week. Nex was a nonbinary 16-year-old high school sophomore in Oklahoma whose death has captured attention around the world. Nex, who used They/Them pronouns, was a straight-A student who loved reading, drawing, Minecraft, and their cat, Zeus.

On February 7th, Nex was involved in a fight at Owasso High School. Sue Benedict, Nex’s grandmother, told The Independent that Nex was badly beaten by three older girls in a bathroom. Some coverage has reported that Nex's head was “banged into the floor.” Reports say the school did not call an ambulance for Nex. Instead, Nex was brought to the hospital by their grandmother and was discharged later that evening. Nex collapsed at home the next day and was later pronounced dead.


Ms. Benedict said Nex had experienced bullying at the school but added, “I didn’t know how bad it had gotten.”



RELATED: We Could've Saved Nex Benedict's Life

Ms. Benedict, a registered member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, raised Nex since they were two months old along with her five other children. She formally adopted Nex a few years ago. She told The Independent that Nex was a “shining light.”


“Nex had a light in them that was so big, they had so many dreams. I want their light to keep shining for everyone. That light was so big and bright and beautiful, and I want everyone to remember Nex that way.”

What can we say to kids about Nex Benedict's death?

As a classroom teacher, one of the skills I developed was teaching about current events. Sometimes, things happen in the world that are bigger and more pressing than the scheduled lesson plan. Similarly, with my kids at home, I sometimes feel the need to talk about what they are seeing in the news or circulating on social media. I think Nex’s story deserves that kind of attention. Here are some suggestions for how to start this conversation.

Get the facts.

There’s a lot we are still learning about Nex’s life — and death. When talking about current news with youth, it’s always good to remind them that our goal in reading the news is to get the best information we can from reliable sources (ideally multiple sources), while keeping in mind that what we know may change over time.


Here are some stories I would recommend reading to better understand this situation:

Listen and offer support.

Hearing about what happened to Nex may be frightening or confusing for young people. Listen to their concerns, answer their questions, and help them find support if they need it.

RELATED: What Transgender Kids Wish Their Parents Understood

Talk about gender identity.

This story may bring up questions about pronouns or gender identity. These are areas of learning for a lot of people, and it’s an area of language that is rapidly evolving. Here are some resources that may be useful:


Talk about safe schools.

Here’s the bottom line: schools should be safe for every student. Bullying, harassment, and violence need to be addressed immediately. This is a great thing to talk about with young people: Do they see this kind of behavior happening at their school? What do they see the school doing to address it?

For schools that need help, has clear guidance and easy-to-use resources.

RELATED: I Was Transgender In An LGBTQ-Unfriendly School System


Talk about bystander intervention.

The organization Right To Be has developed a framework called “The 5Ds of Bystander Intervention” to encourage bystanders to intervene when they see harassment or bullying. Here’s how they introduce it:

"What’s worse than experiencing harassment related to your identity? Whether it’s about your race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, gender presentation or sexual orientation, about your size, age, or disability you live with. Well, what’s worse than being harassed in public is being surrounded by bystanders who see it happening but do nothing about it. It doesn’t have to be that way.

"As bystanders, we must be especially vigilant and aware of what these harms can look like, so we’re ready to stand up and intervene. When we intervene, not only do we reduce the trauma of harassment for the person who was harmed (yes, harassment can cause trauma!)…we also slowly chip away at the culture of harassment and replace it with one of humanity."

There are youth-friendly videos to accompany each of the 5Ds:


They also offer lots of free training for adults and educators.

Advocate for LGBTQ+ support in schools.

The CDC has lots of research that shows when schools implement LGBTQ+ supportive policies and practices, all students experience better health outcomes. Here’s what they tell schools:

"Creating a safe and supportive school environment where LGBTQ+ youth feel connected to people who care is a proven way to promote their health and well-being."

Push for change.

Rebecca Minor, who runs the @gender.specialist Instagram account, recently issued this call to action:

"Let's channel our emotions into constructive action, advocating for a world where every student, regardless of gender identity, feels safe and respected. To facilitate your involvement, I've prepared easy-to-use templates for contacting relevant officials and entities, ensuring you can take prompt and effective action in this crucial matter."


Rebecca also provided this script for talking to friends, family, or coworkers about Nex:

"'Hey, I recently came across a story that affected me, and I wanted to share it with you. It's about Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma. Nex tragically passed away after being attacked in their school bathroom. The situation was made even more distressing by the school's inadequate response to their injuries.

This has got me thinking a lot about the safety and inclusivity of LGBTQ+ youth in our schools. It's heartbreaking that someone so young had to face such violence, and it highlights the need for better policies and support systems. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on how we, as a community, can help create safer environments for all students, especially those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.


I believe it’s crucial to have these conversations to raise awareness and promote change. What do you think we can do to support these efforts?"'

Take care of yourself.

This news can be unsettling or activating. If you are feeling unsafe, please reach out to The Trevor Project (text 678-678), Translifeline (Call 877-565-8860), or the Crisis Textline (Text HOME to 741741).

Hang in there, everyone.

RELATED: Teacher Perfectly Shuts Down Parent Protests Over LGBTQ+ Influence In Schools — 'We Are Just People, We Exist, What Is The Problem?'

Christopher Pepper is an award-winning health educator, speaker, and writer. His work has been featured in the SF Chronicle, The New York Times, and on NPR. He's currently co-writing "TALK TO YOUR BOYS," for Workman Publishing.