OK's Ryan Walters blamed online for death of non-binary student

Ryan Walters

Oklahoma’s top education official called out over Libs of TikTok ties after non-binary student who was in fight at school later dies

Ryan Walters recently appointed Chaya Raichik to a state institution.


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Feb 19, 2024   Updated on Feb 22, 2024, 1:03 pm CST

An Oklahoma high school student was beaten by peers and subsequently died earlier this month.

Now, many online are saying that their death is emblematic of transphobic rhetoric promulgated by the state’s Secretary of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters, who oversees the state’s Department of Education.

Chaya Raichik, who runs the controversial @LibsOfTikTok X account, is also being blamed.

Raichik was appointed to the State Department of Education’s Library Media Advisory Committee in January by Walters.

On Feb. 7, Nex Benedict was beaten by three older, female peers at Owasso High School, where Benedict was a sophomore. A teacher broke up the altercation, but school authorities did not call an ambulance for Benedict. They did, however, go to the hospital that day and were later released.

Benedict died after a second trip to the hospital the next day. They were non-binary. Owasso Police said on Wednesday that an initial autopsy revealed Benedict did not die of “trauma” and that further tests were pending.

However, prior to police reporting, many posited that Benedict’s death was the result of a hate crime motivated, they say in part, by the anti-trans rhetoric Walters peddled as the head of the state’s top official in charge of education.

Walters was Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education for three years before his election as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Last year, the Department released a video about transgender students in which Walters said that the trans movement was “an assault on truth.”

“We have injected radical gender theory and telling kids that they might be other genders,” Walters said in the video. “It’s dangerous. It puts our girls in jeopardy.”

Walters also prohibited students from changing their gender on their official school records, for which one Oklahoma student is suing the Department of Education.

“A child has now died. Nex Benedict (they/them) was a nonbinary child. They were beaten, viciously in a high school bathroom of Owasso High School. They died the next day in the hospital,” a viral tweet said. “Ryan Walters’ rhetoric is contributing.”

“No teachers or staff called the authorities to help Nex after they initially survived the attack,” Hayden Clarkin tweeted. “This is the world Oklahoma elected leaders and Ryan Walters want.”

Police said all participants were able to walk under their own power. Benedict’s mother said, however, that they came home with bruises on their face.

Some are also calling out Raichik, who in addition to serving on Walters’ Library Media Advisory Committee, posted a photo of herself and Walters in September 2023.

“We chatted about protecting children in Oklahoma schools!” Raichik said of her 2023 meetup with Walters.

For her part, Raichik called Benedict’s death tragic in a tweet debunking that she and Walters had met up days before Benedict was killed.

“The media is blaming me for a nonbinary student being k*lled at school because 2 years ago I happened to post a tiktok from a teacher in that school,” Raychik said, noting other accusations she faced online over the death. “The victim was a sophmore … wasn’t even attending the school when I posted the tiktok.”

Raichik has faced accusations and reporting that schools she targets on her social media channels lead to violence against them such as bomb threats.

This post has been updated with Oswasso Police’s comments on Benedict’s death.

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*First Published: Feb 19, 2024, 3:56 pm CST