For Immediate Release: March 20, 2024 


Media Contacts:  

Ben Truman │ Department of Health 

802-316-2117 │ 802-863-7280 

[email protected] 


Lindsey Hedges │ Agency of Education 

802-793-8248 │ 802- 828-1130 

[email protected] 


Statement from Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD and Interim Secretary of Education Heather Bouchey, Ph.D. on Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth

Last week, news media reported that transgender teenager Nex Benedict’s tragic and senseless death in Oklahoma was deemed a suicide. As details continue to emerge, one thing remains clear: the bullying and hate that led to Nex’s death is a call for all of us to stop physical and emotional violence against LGBTQIA+ youth, and to educate children and adults that all people are to be valued. 


Every young person deserves to feel safe and supported, especially at school. They also should be free to be who they are. But the reality is that queer and transgender youth across the country, and in Vermont, often do not experience the freedom to be their authentic selves.  


Vermont’s own data shows LGBTQ+ students are twice as likely as heterosexual cisgender students to be bullied during the past month. They are more likely to experience poor mental health, and 3.5 times as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year, among other disparities. 


We are the voices our children are listening to. We need them to know they all matter, and to take reports of bullying seriously. We need to ensure our schools offer education and spaces inclusive of all genders and sexualities. We need to lean into difficult conversations with friends and loved ones to shift the narrative from intolerance to acceptance of experiences they may not understand. 


Making sure our LGBTQIA+ youth feel safe and accepted is a public health issue. As we mourn the loss of life and innocence from this act of hate against Nex Benedict, let’s turn grief into action that will prevent the next act of violence against LGBTQIA+ youth. 


We encourage Vermonters to find and connect others to resources: 



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