Utah school district seeks investigation of its handling of bullying after 10-year-old’s suicide death
Davis School District calls Isabella ‘Izzy’ Faith Tichenor’s death ‘tragic and devastating’
The Davis School District announced Friday it will seek an independent investigation into its handling of “critical issues” in the wake of the suicide death of a 10-year-old Black girl whose family says was bullied at school because of her race and because she was autistic.
The girl’s mother, Brittany Tichenor, said her daughter, Isabella “Izzy” Faith Tichenor, was frequently bullied and belittled at Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake, and “nothing was done to protect Izzy” after the conduct was reported to school officials.
The school district issued a statement Friday that said in part: “The death of Izzy is tragic and devastating. Our hearts continue to be with the family, friends and community who are grieving this loss. The well-being of our students will always be a priority, and we are committed to preventing this from happening in the future.”
The independent investigation also will “review our handling of critical issues, such as bullying, to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students,” according to the statement.
“We also want to provide resources to our students and community who may be struggling with this loss. The tragedy of suicide can be far-reaching, and it’s not uncommon to feel grief for the loss of someone you have never met, especially if there’s a feeling of shared commonality,”
Outcry about Izzy’s death has extended far beyond her community. The Utah Jazz observed a moment of silence prior to its game against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.
Utah Jazz players Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles spoke with reporters prior to the game about Izzy. Ingles, whose son is on the autism spectrum, said he spoke with Brittany Tichenor by phone for about an hour to offer his condolences and to discuss what could be done to help prevent future tragedies.
Mitchell said at that time that he had not yet met with Izzy’s mother, but he plans to connect with the family and extend his help.
Following Izzy’s death, Mitchell tweeted that he was at a loss for words. “This is honestly sick! A little girl committing suicide because she was bullied based on the color of her skin… it’s sickening that grown adults knew about this and didn’t give a damn! Rest in Paradise Izzy! WE will be your voice.”
I am at a loss for words rn… this is honestly sick! A little girl committing suicide because she was bullied based on the color of her skin… it’s sickening that grown adults knew about this and didn’t give a damn! Rest in Paradise Izzy! WE will be your voice 🕊❤️ https://t.co/IqNDPTsU72— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) November 10, 2021
A statement issued by the school district earlier this week said “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 school district is under federal scrutiny after a two-year Department of Justice investigation revealed “serious and widespread racial harassment” in its school by students but also some staff, and failures of district officials to act on complaints.
On Tuesday night, a vigil to honor Izzy and support her family held in a park in North Salt Lake was attended by hundreds of people.
Izzy’s funeral services will be conducted this weekend. The family, through its attorney, has requested that attendance be limited to immediate family and friends.
Meanwhile, the school district’s statement encourages parents to “stay connected to their kids, especially during this time, and talk with them about their mental health and well-being. Feelings of depression, bullying, harassment, vulnerable living situations, feelings of isolation, and addictions are significant problems for children and youth. The district has trained licensed therapists available to talk to and process these feelings and help parents facilitate these conversations.”
The district provided the following contacts:
Student and Family Resource Department: 801-402-5155
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Davis Behavioral Health: 801-773-7060
Stabilization and Mobile Response: 1-833-723-3326
Safe UT Crisis Chat & Tip Line: 1-833-372-3388
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.