Hundreds of people gathered at Foxboro Elementary in North Salt Lake to remember a fifth grade student who took her own life over the weekend.
The family says Isabella Faith Tichenor had been bullied, and, despite numerous complaints, nothing changed.
Tyler Ayres, an attorney for the family, said “Izzy,” as her family called her, “was bullied for being African American as well as autistic.”
A cold rain Tuesday night didn’t stop a passionate community from coming to support the grieving family.
The gathering started with a prayer by Pastor Eric Morgan with Living Waters Fellowship.
He thanked God for the opportunity to celebrate Izzy and for the chance to remember such a beautiful young girl.
The night was filled with memories of Izzy, and activism from the adults.
People in the audience wept as Izzy’s friends spoke about how they will remember her.
“Nobody deserves to feel that way,” said Zayley, a friend from Izzy’s class.
Sapphire Robinson, a licensed child and family therapist, said Izzy’s death could have been avoided.
“Her death is on Utah’s hands, the people of Utah, the school district,” she said.
Izzy’s family in a statement said school officials failed to intervene even after they reported concerns.
“We are devastated by the loss of our precious Izzy. She was a bright, brilliant and intelligent young girl with the brightest smile and always loved to hug and give love. Izzy was autistic and lived life a little different than other kids. Other children recognizing her differences, frequently bullied and belittled Izzy. She was an easy target especially after a teacher joined in mocking this young lady.
“As any parent would, we reported this abuse to her teachers, the school administration, and the district administration. Nothing. Nothing was done to protect Izzy. Children did not have their behavior corrected so the torment of this child continued day after day.”
The Davis School District is investigating the circumstances surrounding the 10-year-old’s treatment at school.
The school district released a statement Tuesday, saying: “We, like everyone, are devastated by the death of this child. Our hearts go out to the family. Foxboro Elementary has worked extensively with the family and will continue to provide help to them and others impacted by this tragedy. We take all incidents and reports of bullying seriously.
“At this point, the incident we are aware of involved another student. The teacher and administration responded quickly and appropriately. As with all allegations of bullying, our investigation will continue.”
The suicide comes just two weeks after a scathing report was released by the U.S. Department of Justice following a two-year investigation of the Davis School District, saying it found “serious widespread racial harassment.”
The report went on to say, “Many black students said the harassment was so pervasive and happened so often in front of adults that they concluded school employees condoned the behavior and believed reporting it further would be futile.”
However, the vigil Tuesday night was focused more on change and love for the 10-year old girl.
A representative from the PTA said the school is going to create a Buddy Bench on the playground in Izzy’s name, where kids can go if they need a friend.
Suicide prevention resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, which is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by crisis counselors at Huntsman Mental Health Institute.
You can also text TALK to 741741, and parents, students and educators can download the SafeUT app chat or call 833-3SAFEUT to connect with a licensed crisis counselor.