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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

Oklahoma tragedy felt by LGBTQ advocates in ND

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Monday, March 11, 2024   

LGBTQ advocates in North Dakota have joined a nationwide coalition demanding accountability over the death of a non-binary teen from Oklahoma. And there are calls to promote solidarity for other gender-nonconforming students.

Last month, 16-year-old Nex Benedict - who had experienced bullying - died the day after an altercation in a school bathroom.

The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition recently signed on to a letter that includes more than 350 other signees.

They want Oklahoma's state superintendent removed, claiming he helped foster a harassing environment.

Jamee Larson, board member with the North Dakota Coalition, said she wants people in her state to pay attention to what's happening.

"I think we just need to ask ourselves who really needs protecting right now?" said Larson. "And I don't think it's the students that need protecting from the trans community - I think it's the other way around."

Larson said she worries a similar situation could happen in North Dakota after the Legislature approved a wave of laws last year viewed as hostile toward the LGBTQ community.

Sponsors of those bills cite reasons such as protecting the rights of parents of other students.

But Larson said those kids are growing up with messaging that only their rights matter, while the rights of their LGBTQ classmates are stripped away.

Like everyone else attending public schools, Larson said trans-students just want an education and to feel welcome. She encouraged community members to rally around these individuals.

"I know a lot of people are talking about this right now and they need to be talking about it outwardly," said Larson, "that we aren't going to stand for this anymore."

Larson also called on administrators, law enforcement, and medical professionals to follow the necessary protocols in responding to any reports of bullying toward LGBTQ students.

Officials in Oklahoma have come under scrutiny for some of their actions leading up to and following Benedict's death.

Meanwhile, Faye Seidler, a suicide prevention advocate who specializes in helping LGBTQ+ populations in North Dakota, has put together a resource page for teens and their families to turn to in light of the Oklahoma case.


Disclosure: North Dakota Human Rights Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Human Rights/Racial Justice, LGBTQIA Issues, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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