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HomeNewsOwasso Public Schools Prepare for Community Protest Amid Mourning of Young Student

Owasso Public Schools Prepare for Community Protest Amid Mourning of Young Student

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A picture Owasso student of Nex Benedict
Source: Pinterest

The small city of Owasso, Oklahoma, is grieving the loss of a young student who died as a result of gender-based bullying. As if this isn’t enough for the community to bear, the Westboro Baptist Church is planning a protest that will only have negative repercussions. The church is usually quite controversial and anti-LGBTQ+. 

Therefore, it didn’t sit right with community members when it announced its intention to demonstrate at Owasso Public Schools in response to the death of Nex Benedict. The student was nonbinary and passed away after a physical altercation at the school on February 8. 

Due to this tragic loss of life, many people are pouring in their support for the LGBTQ+ community. They have also increased the awareness around bullying and the struggles the LGBTQ+ youth are facing. In addition, there was a student-led walkout on February 26 to show solidarity with Nex and preach against bullying. 

While a medical examiner has not yet disclosed Nex’s exact cause of death, it was a result of a bullying incident due to their nonbinary identity. While most people are showing advocacy and support, the Westboro Baptist Church is doing the exact opposite. 

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ALSO READ: Advocacy Group Calls for Oklahoma Education Superintendent Removal Over Anti-LGBTQ Rhetoric

It prides itself as a group that preaches against “all forms of sin.” Therefore, it has decided to target the LGBTQ+ community with a protest regarding Nex’s identity. According to a statement by the church, they will deliver “the Gospel” in Owasso while also blaming Nex for his own death. 

The group made several anti-LGBTQ+ remarks and is not hiding their intentions at all. However, many stand with the Benedict family regardless of the church’s intentions. Local organizations in Owasso and national ones support other students and the late Nex’s family by counter-protesting against the church. 

POLL—Should Public Schools Include Critical Race Theory and Sex Education in Their Curriculum?

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Oklahomans for Equality (OkEq) has initiated a “Pledge-a-Picket” campaign, encouraging donations to its youth programs for each protester who appears. A board member of OkEq, Paula Shannon, emphasized its aim to counter the harmful, exclusionary, and hateful message” by demonstrating “dignity of humanity, love, and inclusivity.” 

On the other hand, Parasol Patrol, a national non-profit, plans to protect attendees from the confrontational tactics of the Westboro Baptist Church without engaging in counter-protests. The board of Public schools in Owasso is also not silent. Their Superintendent, Dr. Margaret Coates, sent out a statement addressing the church’s protest. In the letter, she wrote that the church’s event “is not associated with the district in any way.” 

ALSO READ: Oklahoma Students Stage Walkout Over Nonbinary Student’s Death

Furthermore, she assured families that the schools take safety as a high priority while sympathizing with Nex’s family. In addition, she wrote that the board has made counseling services available for students and staff who might need some assistance during these times. 

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Westboro Church has received a lot of backlash across the country for their statements following Nex’s death. In fact, Vice President Kamala Harris expressed her condolences to the Benedict family. She also re-affirmed their administration’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. 

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