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Outrage after Oklahoma education superintendent reframes Nex Benedict’s death without naming the teen

Author: Christopher Wiggins

Amid escalating tensions and controversies surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in Oklahoma’s education system, state Superintendent Ryan Walters’s comments at a Thursday Board of Education meeting have sparked anger from LGBTQ+ rights groups. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced an investigation into the school’s response to bullying incidents leading to Benedict’s death. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released a full autopsy report on Wednesday, which concluded that Benedict’s death was a suicide resulting from the combined toxicity of an antihistamine and a common depression medication. The local prosecutor declined to file criminal charges in the case.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, responded to Walters’ remarks in a statement to The Advocate.

“It is outrageous to hear Ryan Walters say he will never ‘lie to’ or ‘force a radical agenda on’ Oklahoma students, considering that he spends his days cultivating a climate of fear and disinformation. The radical agenda is Walters’ — it thrives every day under his leadership and makes school a dangerous place for all students,” Ellis said.

She emphasized the need for an independent investigation into Benedict’s death “as well as an investigation into Oklahoma public schools to uncover how and why anti-LGBTQ animus reigns supreme. Ryan Walters and his cronies must be held accountable for the climate of fear and disinformation they are hell-bent on pushing.”

Laurel Powell of the Human Rights Campaign highlighted the community’s frustration in a statement to The Advocate, noting that opposition to Walters comes from his constituents.

“Every single person allowed to speak at [the] Board of Education meeting — all Oklahomans or parents with kids in Oklahoma schools— told Ryan Walters to his face that he has failed at his job and is harming Oklahoma students,” Powell said. “They have clearly had enough of his cruelty and his incompetence, both of which were on full display during the meeting. His opposition is not a straw man ‘woke mob,’ but the people he pretends to serve. Ryan Walters must be removed.”

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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