A little girl tragically left the world after death by suicide, and disturbing reports from her case show how the school failed her.
A young girl took her life and that is just the beginning of this tragic story. Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a 10-year-old Black student, was also on the autistic spectrum and was attending Foxboro Elementary school in Farmington, Utah, when she died by suicide in November 2021. Izzy’s mother, Brittany Tichnor-Cox, claims her daughter was being bullied because of her race and disability before she ended her life.
This horrific tragedy came just weeks after the Department of Justice came out with their scathing report that detailed a disturbing pattern of Black and Asian students being harassed for years in the Davis School District. The report also detailed the school district’s deliberate ignoring of complaints from students and parents. Izzy’s tragic suicide brought the Davis School District under fire once again.
After Izzy’s suicide, the Davis School District commissioned an investigation surrounding Tichnor-Cox’s claims. The investigation, conducted by a three-person team, revealed that Izzy’s classmates and teachers told her on numerous occasions that she smelled and that she also needed to take a bath. The investigation, though, found no “direct evidence” that Izzy had been bullied on the basis of her disability or her race.
The investigative team said that “issues relating to race, disability, and poverty sometimes intersect and when they do, can further complicate already challenging situations. It can be very difficult to extricate one from the others.” The findings also said, “When a student told Izzy she needed to wash her hair, this comment could have been borne out of racial animus, could have been an innocuous observation, or could have been a cloaked insult about poverty.”
The report on Izzy’s suicide did conclude, however, that her school did not protect the young child as they failed to investigate in a timely manner the allegations leveled by Izzy’s mother. In total, Tichnor-Cox had reported three school incidents starting in September 2021. This included an incident that involved Izzy’s sister and one that Tichnor-Cox claims a student called Izzy’s sister a name.
The next incident Tichner-Cox reported to the school again involved Izzy’s sister and the same student. This time the student threatened both daughters and said he had a gun. The student had his backpack searched and the school took a look at surveillance video but couldn’t find enough evidence to support Tichner-Cox’s claims.
Barely a week later, Tichner-Cox was back on the phone with the school claiming that the very “same student called Izzy’s sister the N-word and touched her.” The school was unable to confirm the allegation even after they spoke with two potential witnesses. School officials, though, determined that the incident “more likely than not” happened, so the accused wound up being suspended.
Of the over 40 students and teachers interviewed in the investigation after Izzy’s suicide, none of them could remember Izzy being bullied for her being Black or autistic. In fact, Izzy’s autism was never a part of official records. While Izzy was slated to be assessed for autism by the school’s administration in 2020, Tichner-Cox never brought her daughter in. Izzy’s mom set up another assessment the following year, but the testing was not complete when Izzy took her life.
Children can be the ultimate when it comes to cruelty among others. But make no mistake, adults can be just as bad, if not worse. One special education teacher at Foxboro Elementary told Izzy that she smelled bad and asked her if she had taken a shower. This prompted the little girl to take a bottle of Febreze and spray it on her so she wouldn’t smell so bad. “They found her taking a bottle of Febreze to school, and when they asked her why they said she said because the kids said she stank,” said family attorney Tyler Ayres to CNN. He also said that Izzy’s teacher told her to go sit in the back of the classroom away from the other students.
Little Izzy’s suicide is tragic. Her death was absolutely avoidable. Why those in charge didn’t take a more vested interest in Izzy and her mother’s complaints is unconscionable.