School of Black Utah student who died by suicide allowed bullying ‘on any ground” to go unchecked, report finds

Izzy’s death sparked widespread outrage and new questions about the Davis School District’s handling of bullying allegations.

In a newly released investigative report commissioned by the district, a three-person review team learned that classmates and teachers told Izzy she smelled bad and needed to take a shower, but found “no direct evidence” that the girl had been bullied on the basis of her race or disability.

The review team noted that “issues related to race, disability, and poverty sometimes intersect, and when they do, they can further complicate already difficult situations. It can be very difficult to separate one from the other.”

“When a student told Izzy she needed to wash her hair, this comment could have stemmed from racial animosity, it could have been an innocuous remark, or it could have been a veiled insult about poverty,” the report says.

However, the findings show that the school failed to protect Izzy by dismissing and failing to promptly investigate her mother’s allegation that Izzy was being bullied.

The report also found that Foxboro staff displayed “no real knowledge” of the district’s definition of “bullying,” and that the school fostered an atmosphere “in which bullying…was not reported, investigated, or addressed.” “.

Izzy’s death came weeks after the Justice Department publicly detailed a disturbing pattern in the Davis School District in which African-American and Asian-American students had been harassed for years and complaints had been willfully ignored by officials. of parents and students. The DOJ’s findings came in a report and settlement agreement released in October. The agency had been investigating the school district since July 2019.

Tyler Ayres, an attorney representing the Tichenor family, declined to comment for this story. He previously told CNN that the family sought out teachers and school leaders to report that Izzy was repeatedly teased and felt ignored.

Izzy’s mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, did not respond to a CNN request for comment.

Neither Ayres nor Izzy’s mother agreed to participate in the school district’s independent review, the report says.

In a statement, the Davis School District said it was reviewing the report’s recommendations and sent its condolences to Izzy’s family.

“We are taking this seriously. We are committed to continuing our ongoing and extensive efforts to foster a welcoming environment for all students in the Davis School District,” the statement said.

Report: Izzy wasn’t ‘expressly’ bullied for being black or autistic

The school received reports of bullying allegations, but it took months for staff to create an official record, only doing so after learning Izzy had attempted suicide, the report says.

Tichenor-Cox reported three incidents as of September 2021, including an incident in which Izzy’s sister was allegedly insulted by a student, according to the report.

Tichenor-Cox approached school officials saying the same student had allegedly threatened his children and told them he had a gun, the report says. School staff reviewed surveillance video and searched the student’s backpack three days later, and concluded they could not support the allegations, according to the report.

A week later, Tichenor-Cox said “the same student called Izzy’s sister the ‘N-word’ and touched her.” The school was unable to confirm the alleged incident after reviewing surveillance video and speaking with two “potential witnesses,” according to the report.

However, school officials determined that it seemed “more likely than not” that the confrontation would occur and decided to suspend the student, prohibit him from eating breakfast in the school cafeteria, and force both parties, the student and the Tichenor children, to sign a contract agreeing to avoid each other. The report does not say whether Izzy was aware of or witnessed the alleged incidents.

The school told the district it may need to conduct an investigation into racial harassment, but did not specifically mention the Tichenors.

While the report says none of the more than 40 school employees and students interviewed for the investigation recalled that Izzy was “expressly” bullied for being black or autistic, many said students and teachers made comments about her hygiene.

Tichenor-Cox complained to a teacher that one of Izzy’s classmates was bullying her, telling her she smelled bad and needed to wash her hair, the report says.

A special education teacher told the review team that she told Izzy she smelled bad and asked if she had showered, according to the report. At one point, Tichenor-Cox complained that the teacher told the class they “smelled bad” and said that Izzy sprayed herself with Febreze before going to school after hearing these comments, according to the report.

The independent review also noted that no records show any diagnosis of autism for Izzy. Her mother had asked school administrators for an evaluation in the fall of 2020, according to the report, but she never brought Izzy in for the requested observation and testing. Her mother requested another evaluation in September 2021, which was done in October, but the evaluation had not been completed when Izzy died, according to the report.

Based on their report, the team recommends that the school district train its staff on how to identify and address bullying, provide diversity and equity sessions, and “trauma-informed poverty training.”

Foxboro Elementary must also establish clear protocols for record-keeping and reporting bullying, the report says.

The Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter said in a statement that they were “disappointed but not surprised” by the report’s findings.

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