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Last week, we learned of the tragic loss of Nex Benedict. Nex was a 16-year old non-binary student, passionate about nature, drawing, and reading. Nex was a victim of a brutal attack by older students in their own high school bathroom. The police department was not aware of the attack until Nex’s family informed them, insinuating that the school failed to report the injuries. Nex told their family they were being bullied for the past year for being non-binary. The death of Nex should be a clear signal to policymakers that LGBTQ+ students must be protected. In Oklahoma, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is at a high, correlating to discriminatory legislation that has been passed in the state. The state has outlawed gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and has banned students from using bathrooms that match their gender identity at K-12 schools. Oklahoma is currently considering more than 50 anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation. 

“We want to be clear, whether Nex died as a direct result of injuries sustained in the brutal hate-motivated attack at school or not, Nex’s death is a result of being the target of physical and emotional harm because of who Nex was,” wrote the advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma. “This harm is absolutely related to the rhetoric and policies that are commonplace at the Oklahoma Legislature, the State Department of Education, and the Governor’s office, with regard to dehumanizing 2STGNC+ [Two Spirit, Transgender, Gender Nonconforming+] people.” 

All policymakers play a critical role in protecting all students, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality. According to the 2023 LGBTQ+ youth report, more than half of all trans and gender-expansive youth felt unsafe in at least one school setting, and two-thirds have been teased or bullied at least once in the past year. Recent policies have put the health and safety of LGBTQ+ kids at risk and have created a hostile environment for many students. More than 450 bills have already been introduced this year that directly attack LGBTQ+ students, with more than 150 of these specifically targeting schools and kids. 

North Carolina: As a result of policies that discriminate against LGBTQ+ public school students, the Campaign for Southern Equality filed a complaint alleging violation of Title IX to the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice against the North Carolina State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction. The letter argues that educators face an impossible choice between following Title IX and following state orders. 

Texas: Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas, GLAAD, and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law Human Rights Clinic submitted a joint letter to the UN about the “deteriorating human rights situation” for LGBTQ+ individuals in Texas. The letter references several recent legislative attacks, such as the elimination of medical freedom for trans youth, censorship, and the end of DEI at public universities.

Equality Texas advocates for the equitable treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals. The organization offers several programs, including  , a comprehensive Equality Education program that offers information and training to LGBTQ+ individuals and allies on advocating for equality.

GLAAD is a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy organization focused on cultural change to ensure fair, accurate, and inclusive representation. The groups offers several useful resources, including a toolkit on community response and action on book bans and a media guide on state legislation about LGBTQ+ people.