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Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles vow to help family of Izzy Tichenor and fight for change

Izzy Tichenor, a 10-year-old girl, died by suicide over the weekend following reports of continued bullying and harassment

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Utah Jazz guards Joe Ingles (2) and Donovan Mitchell (45) during a timeout of game against the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell took to social media Wednesday to express his shock, anger and disbelief about the death of Isabella “Izzy” Faith Tichenor, a 10-year-old girl who died by suicide over the weekend, following reports of continued bullying and harassment, according to Tichenor’s family and representatives.

Tichenor’s family said the young girl continued to experience harassment from her peers and teachers for being Black and autistic, even after the family reported the abuse to school and Davis School District administrators.

Thursday morning, Mitchell requested to speak with local reporters so that he could expand on his feelings.

“It’s mind boggling, it’s sad, it’s just flat-out disgusting,” Mitchell said. “Bullying in itself is one thing ... but on top of that, people were alerted about the situation, by the child, by the parents. ... No one did anything. She was an autistic Black girl and our jobs are to inspire and teach our youth to be better than we are ... the fact that as adults, people sat there and let this continue to a point where a 10-year-old girl killed herself, that to me doesn’t sit right, it doesn’t feel right. As a human being, how do you let it get to that point? Especially after being told about it. You can’t say you didn’t know. ... You were told. You were told.”

Tichenor’s death comes just weeks after a Department of Justice investigation into the Davis School District revealed “serious and widespread racial harassment” by students and staff.

It’s not the first time that Mitchell has spoken out about racial injustices or instances of racism during his five-year NBA career in Utah. Though just 25 himself, he feels he has a duty to Utahns to use the platform he has to raise awareness and try to bring about change.

“I’m not going to shy away from speaking about things,” Mitchell said. “As a prominent Black man in this state, I feel like it’s my job to speak for people who don’t feel like they have a voice ... especially Black people in this community. It’s no secret there aren’t many of us here. ... And not only was Izzy Black, but she was autistic.”

That Tichenor was a minority but also required special attention and care struck a chord with many Jazz players. Mitchell has a cousin that is autistic, Hassan Whiteside’s brother, Nassan, is autistic and Joe Ingles’ son, Jacob, is autistic.

On Wednesday, Ingles said he had an hourlong conversation with Tichenor’s mother, Brittany, and they spoke about some of Izzy’s experiences and Ingles’ fears of sending his son to school. Ingles said that he promised Brittany that he would do whatever he could to support her and her family now, but that he would also do anything he could to make changes locally.

“Every kid, every adult, everyone deserves to go to work or school and be free and enjoy it and learn and that’s all that Izzy wanted to do,” Ingles said. “Hearing some of the stories from Brittany and some of the stories that Izzy’s friends have told Brittany, it’s disgusting. ... Because the teacher of that class is still at school, the kids that were bullying her are still at school and Izzy’s family are the only people that are living a different life.”

A family photo shows Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, who at 10 years old died by suicide after her family says she was bullied.

A family photo shows Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, who at 10 years old died by suicide after her family says she was bullied.

Tichenor-Cox family

Ingles is aware that because of his celebrity and standing in Utah he might have resources and opportunities available to him that others many not. He said he will use that privilege to make changes.

“I promised her that I would get into a room with someone, whether it’s the school, superintendent, someone from the county,” Ingles said. “I’m lucky with my job that I can make calls and get in rooms with people that a lot of people can’t. She’s got a story that she wants to tell and I’ll be her voice if I need to be.”

Mitchell said he too is hoping to get in contact with the Tichenors in the coming days and offer his support, whether that be anything the family needs in the immediate future or down the road.

“We need to continue to help our youth grow and help our youth feel wanted and accepted. It’s not our job to neglect when our youth are feeling a certain way,” Mitchell said. “You go to school to become something that you dream of. A child who had hopes and dreams is no longer with us.”

Both players did their best Thursday to ensure that their words won’t be taken lightly. While they aren’t sure what moves they’ll be making, who they’ll speak to, or what is going to come of it, they’re prepared to take action.

“I’m going to do everything I can for her and her family and to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Ingles said. “I don’t know exactly what that looks like right now, I haven’t done a lot of stuff in that type of space, but I promised her and I’m not going to break that.”