A new report found that a Utah school district failed to take bullying allegations seriously, resulting in a 10-year-old being driven to suicide.
Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor died by suicide in November after being bullied for being Black and autistic. Despite her mother requesting an assessment several times, Izzy’s autism diagnosis wasn’t confirmed before she died.
However, an independent investigation into the bullying accusations found evidence of bullying but not that it was explicitly race-related or tied to her disability.
The 16-page report found that Foxboro Elementary school educators “did not demonstrate actual knowledge of the district’s definition of ‘bullying’” and failed to document reports of bullying properly.
Izzy’s mom, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, reported her daughter’s bullying to the school, but nothing was done. CNN reports that Tichenor-Cox reported three incidents to school officials starting in September. One of the incidents involved Izzy’s sister. She was reportedly called names by a student.
Tichenor-Cox complained to a teacher that a student told Izzy she smelled and needed to wash her hair. In addition to the student commenting on the girl’s smell, a special education teacher asked her if she had showered. The comments pushed Izzy to spray herself with Fabreze before going to school.
Izzy’s suicide came just weeks after a report by the U.S. Department of Justice said there was “serious widespread racial harassment” in the Davis School District. The DoJ found that Black and Asian American students had faced harassment for years. School officials had largely ignored the harassment for years.
The report recommends that the school district train its staff to correctly identify and address bullying, provide diversity and equity sessions, and “trauma-informed, poverty training.” Foxboro Elementary should also establish clearly defined protocols for record-keeping and reporting bullying.
“We are taking it seriously,” the school district said of the recommendations. “We vow to continue our ongoing and extensive efforts to foster a welcoming environment for all students in the Davis School District.”