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10-year-old girl dies by suicide after she was bullied at school over autism, race, her family says

Vigil in North Salt Lake tonight will commemorate the life of Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor

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

A North Salt Lake family is calling for answers as they mourn the death of their 10-year-old daughter, who took her own life over the weekend after experiencing bullying at school.

The girl’s mother, Brittany Tichenor, said her daughter, Isabella Faith Tichenor, was frequently bullied and belittled at school, according to a statement released by the family.

“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,” according to the statement.

A prayer vigil is scheduled at 7 p.m. today at Foxboro Hollow Park to commemorate Izzy’s life.

Tyler Ayres, an attorney for the family, said “Izzy,” as her family called her, “was bullied for being African American as well as autistic. Brittany reported the bullying multiple times and no action was taken.”

Ayres said the girl’s siblings, who also attend Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake, “have been referred to with the N-word this year. The offending student was not disciplined in any way. We are investigating the school’s lack of response but cannot say more about it at this time.”

During an emotional press conference Monday, Brittany Tichenor and other family members vowed to stand for up for Izzy and others who experience bullying.

“Even though my baby is gone, I’m going to make sure that I stand for Izzy and I’m going to make sure for voices that can’t be heard like hers, that this will never happen again to any kid that is her age, teenager or adult. I don’t care who this is for. Nobody should have to go through that,” she said.

Isabella Faith Tichenor, 10, is pictured on a GoFundMe webpage that was created on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021.
Isabella Faith Tichenor, 10, is pictured on a GoFundMe webpage that was created on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. The 10-year-old took her own life after her mother said she was a frequent victim of bullying at her school in Davis County.
GoFundMe.com

The Davis School District responded in a statement: “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 school district is under federal scrutiny after a Department of Justice investigation revealed “serious and widespread racial harassment” in its school by students but also some staff.

Last month, the Department of Justice announced results of the two-year probe during which Black students told investigators that they were routinely called the N-word or other racial epithets by non-Black students, and they were told that their skin was dirty or looked like feces, according to a DOJ news release.

“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,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ investigation noted Davis District’s “ineffective response” to incidents of racial harassment “for years.”

Brittany Tichenor’s statement goes on to say their family is “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.”

If you or someone you know feel hopeless or in crisis, call the 24-hour national suicide prevention 24-hour lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. A list of area-specific suicide and crisis prevention hotlines in Utah can be found here.

Utah students can talk to or text a counselor through the SafeUT app. The app can also be used to report threats at school.

People gather at a prayer vigil on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in North Salt Lake, to commemorate Isabella Faith Tichenor’s life.
Family, friends and community members gather at a prayer vigil Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at Foxboro Hollow Park in North Salt Lake, to commemorate Isabella Faith Tichenor’s life.
Jay Hancock, Deseret News