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Autistic 10-year-old dies of suicide, mother lashes Davis School District

By Mark Shenefelt - | Nov 8, 2021
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Isabella Faith Tichenor
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In this image taken from video, Brittany Tichenor, second from right, speaks Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in North Salt Lake about the death of her daughter, Isabella Faith Tichenor, 10.

NORTH SALT LAKE — A 10-year-old girl died in an apparent suicide, and her mother on Monday blamed the Davis School District for allegedly not stopping bullying of the Foxboro Elementary student.

Isabella Faith Tichenor was found dead in the family home Saturday, her mother, Brittany Tichenor, said in an informal news conference at a North Salt Lake Park. Isabella was autistic and, “lived life a little different than other kids,” her mother said.

She said other children recognized her differences and bullied and belittled her. She claimed a teacher was unsympathetic and joined in mocking Isabella. The mother said she repeatedly spoke to teachers and school and district administrators.

“Nobody has done anything,” she said. “This proves (school personnel) don’t know what a child is going through mentally, and a parent has to find their child hanging from a closet.”

School district spokesperson Shauna Lund gave the following prepared statement on behalf of the district: “We, like everyone, are devastated by the death of this child. Our hearts go out to the family. Foxboro Elementary has worked extensively with the family and will continue to provide help to them and others impacted by this tragedy. We take all incidents and reports of bullying seriously. At this point, the incident we are aware of involved another student. The teacher and administration responded quickly and appropriately. As with all allegations of bullying, our investigation will continue.”

The Tichenors are Black, and the mother referenced the recent Justice Department settlement with the school district that addressed patterns of discrimination and harassment of Black and Asian-American students by other students and staff.

Brittany Tichenor said her 7-year-old daughter, also a Foxboro student, “was called the n-word” in September and the school’s response was unsatisfactory, in her opinion. “I had to break it down to the vice principal — I shouldn’t have to tell you why that’s bad.”

In releasing its findings on Oct. 22, the Justice Department ordered a sweeping program to correct the problems in the district. The agreement cited persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment by district staff and other students. The investigation began in 2019 and covered the period of 2015-2020. In a letter a week later in response to the agreement, Reid Newey, district superintendent, said the district does not challenge the findings of the investigation.

“We thank those who came forward with their stories, however hurtful those are to relive, and we sincerely apologize …” Newey said. “As difficult as it is to admit our shortcomings and failures, that is what we must do to start on the path to improvement.”

Efforts to contact the North Salt Lake Police Department about Isabella Tichenor’s death were not immediately successful.

A GoFundMe account had raised more than $15,000 for Isabella’s funeral expenses by Monday afternoon.

“She was her mommy’s best friend, the best big sister, and a light in this world,” the fundraising message said. The Tichenor family chose a local park playground for the brief and emotional news conference Monday.

“Even though my baby is gone, I’m going to make sure that I stand for Izzy and for voices that can’t be heard, so that this will never happen again,” Brittany Tichenor said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children with disabilities are sometimes more likely to be bullied, and autistic children are more prone to self-injurious behavior.

Need help?

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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