Utah School District is paying $2 million to family of bullied black girl who died by suicide

The settlement ends the high-profile legal case against Izzy Tichenor, a fifth-grader whose death drew national attention.

(Tichenor family) Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor is seen in this undated family photo. Izzy’s family receives $2 million from the Davis School District in compensation for her suicide after she was bullied at her elementary school.

Editor’s Note • This article is about suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of harming yourself, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.

The family of Izzy Tichenor – the 10-year-old black girl whose death by suicide after severe racist bullying at her Utah elementary school sparked national outcry – will receive $2 million in one of the largest civil rights deals the state has ever seen.

The agreement with the Davis School District was announced via email on Tuesday. That ends high-profile claims that the family planned to file a lawsuit last year following Izzy’s death in November 2021.

In a joint statement with the family, the precinct said the loss of Isabella Tichenor – who was affectionately nicknamed “Izzy” by her close ones and who still dreamed of being a Disney character as a child – “always had an impact on our community.” will have.” School.”

Moving on, the statement continued, “The Davis School District is committed to making schools a safe and welcoming environment for all.”

The payment and the joint statement are part of a “mutual agreement,” it said. This is the second racism settlement the district has paid for this year.

In the same email, Davis also said it would pay $200,000 to the families of three students who also faced discrimination and filed a lawsuit in March 2022. Because this is a public school district, the money for these settlements ultimately comes from taxes.

Izzy’s death drew additional attention to Davis, as her death came just weeks after the US Department of Justice issued a damning report into the northern Utah school district’s gross misuse of reports on racism.

Investigators found that district administrators had deliberately ignored “widespread” racial harassment in the predominantly white schools for years and failed to respond to hundreds of reports of black students after referring to them as slaves, the N-word, and hearing threats that they would be lynched. Some employees were involved in the discrimination, the report said.

Only 1% of the district’s 73,000 students are black.

After her daughter’s death, Brittany Tichenor-Cox became active on behalf of Izzy and against the racism she had seen firsthand in the school district.

Tichenor-Cox spoke repeatedly about how, prior to Izzy’s suicide, she had reached out to the Davis school board several times to address the bullying she says Izzy was facing in fifth grade at Foxboro Elementary School from both classmates and her teacher. She tearfully recounted the abuse she believed Izzy had endured because of her skin color and being autistic.

But every time, Tichenor-Cox said, she was ignored.

“Even if my baby is dead, I will make sure I stand up for Izzy,” she said days after her daughter’s death on November 6, 2021.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brittany Tichenor-Cox, center, along with her sister Jasmine Rhodes, right, talks about their daughter Izzy Tichenor on November 9, 2021.

Her continued drive has kept the issue in light and has helped push the Davis School District toward reform in the two years since.

As part of this, the county commissioned an independent investigation into the harassment Izzy was subjected to. The results of that investigation, released a few months later in April 2022, corroborated Tichenor-Cox’s account and concluded that associates had participated in the abuse of Izzy.

A teacher told Izzy in front of her classmates that she smelled and needed a shower, the investigation found. And when that teacher was later questioned by investigators, she claimed Izzy didn’t understand the insult due to her “scholastic delays.”

Another educator openly used “offensive gestures” to refer to Izzy after her death. The same teacher had been given a disciplinary sanction months earlier for engaging in a racist conversation with other teachers.

And the report concluded that the school had dismissed at least one abuse report and failed to conduct a proper investigation.

“Foxboro failed to complete the investigation that Izzy deserved and deserved,” the report said.

The report also noted that Izzy has been bullied on several occasions by classmates, has been mocked for her disability, called out racists, and said she stinks because of the color of her skin (reflecting the teacher’s comments, which investigators say are likely was the trigger for treatment by her classmates). Izzy was also threatened with a gun.

But these encounters were not documented until after her death.

After her suicide, and as requested by the Justice Department, the county has worked to address some of the systemic racism in its schools. Jackie Thompson, a veteran educator and prominent civil rights activist, was hired to oversee the reform and provide more training.

She has created a streamlined complaints form and hired liaisons to go to each school to listen to and investigate concerns. Izzy’s suicide also prompted a bill in the Utah legislature to prosecute bullying nationwide.

However, some parents and activists say that is not enough and is not changing the deeply rooted culture in an area that is predominantly white and predominantly Latter-day Saints. The district acknowledged in its Tuesday statement that “there is still work to be done.”

“The district is continually evaluating and expanding its processes and efforts to better support each student who attends its schools,” he added.

The district and family declined to comment outside of the statement. They concluded by saying, “Any form of racism, bigotry, discrimination or harassment in our schools is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Justin Scaccy

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