It’s hard to imagine a more tragic story: A 10-year-old Black girl in Utah died by suicide after being bullied by classmates in a school district that had been investigated for ignoring racism in its classrooms.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor was a fifth grader in the Davis School District, where she faced teasing over her race and the fact that she was autistic. The girl’s grieving mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, says she repeatedly tried to get the district to intervene before the worst happened, but got no help from officials.
From the Salt Lake Tribune:
Tichenor-Cox said she believes her daughter’s case that started this fall was handled with callousness and disregard — even after those findings became public and the district promised change... Shortly after the school year started, Tichenor-Cox said, she had asked Izzy how things were going. She recalls her daughter saying that she didn’t think her teacher liked her. Tichenor-Cox recounted that Izzy then said: “She doesn’t say ‘hi’ to me. She says ‘hi’ to all the other kids.”
Tichenor-Cox called the school and never got an answer.
Following that, Tichenor-Cox said the teacher told the class that the students smelled bad. She believes the teacher specifically targeted Izzy with the comment because several kids specifically responded by threatening Izzy on the playground and telling her she stunk because of her skin color.
Tichenor-Cox said that in response Izzy took a bottle of air freshener to school to wear as perfume. The mom cried. Again, she called the school district. This time, she said, she got a hold of the teacher directly.
“I’m not going to work it out for them,” she said the teacher told her. “I let them work it out.”
Again, after that, Izzy told her mom that she asked the teacher for help and the teacher told Izzy to sit down, that she didn’t want to deal with her. Kids taunted her, too, for her disability, the girl told her mom. She said they called her names and made fun of the way she looked.
Tichenor-Cox said she talked to the principal and vice principal. They told her they would handle it. She doesn’t believe anything happened.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the same school district had already been called out at the highest level for ignoring abuse and racism towards its Black students. Davis is Utah’s second-largest school district and is mostly white. The feds started investigating racism there in 2019 and didn’t like what it found at all.
From the Salt Lake Tribune:
Davis School District has intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years — failing to respond to hundreds of reports from Black students after they have been called slaves, the N-word, and heard threats that they would be lynched, according to a jarring report from the U.S. Department of Justice.
That refusal to intervene ultimately created an atmosphere that was so oppressive that some kids of color feared coming to class, the report said. Many stopped reporting acts of discrimination, which were often witnessed by teachers who didn’t step in, they said. A few told Justice investigators they felt the district was condoning the way they were treated by taking no action.
“As a consequence of this dismissive attitude to serious racial harassment, a district-wide racially hostile environment went unabated,” the department concluded in the report released Thursday. And “the district left students of color vulnerable to continued abuse.”
We smell a lawsuit coming. Unfortunately, it’s too late to protect little Izzy.