Ten-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor of Salt Lake City, Utah, died by suicide Nov. 6, 2021. According to a lawsuit filed by her family, Izzy, who was the only Black student in her class, which was in a school that is less than 1% Black, according to the Associated Press, was subjected to constant bullying, ableism and racial abuse by other students, and it all went ignored by teachers and administrators. Last year, an investigation commissioned by the Davis School District found that school staff and faculty failed to protect Izzy and dismissed the torment she endured, but found “no direct evidence” that she was bullied on the basis of race, despite complaints that she was called the N-word by other students. (This, of course, doesn’t mean much coming from the predominately white school district that essentially investigated itself after a predominately white school with next to no Black students was accused of letting racism slide.)
Now, the district has agreed to pay Izzy’s family $2 million for its alleged failure to protect a child it was in charge of educating and keeping safe.
Tichenor’s death came weeks after the district, which educates 73,000 kids north of Salt Lake City and has a student body that is less than 1% Black, was reprimanded by the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to address widespread racial discrimination. It sparked widespread outrage, including from the Utah Jazz, whose then-star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell spoke out about how school officials should’ve done more to stop the racist bullying.
Utah lawmamkers passed legislation requiring districts to track reported bullying and racism in schools. Izzy’s mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, pointed to deep-rooted racism in the predominantly white state. The district initially defended its handling of bullying allegations, but launched an independent investigation after Tichenor’s death.
The district, of course, agreed to the settlement approved on Tuesday by a committee at the Utah Legislature without admitting to liability or negligence but said it “is continually assessing and expanding its processes and efforts to better support every student who attends its schools, including implementing trauma-informed counseling and other resources for its students.” The district also said it “is dedicated to creating environments to encourage open dialogue and discussions that promote mutual learning, respect and empathy, free from any undue pressure on individual students.”
Meanwhile, the district also announced Tuesday a separate $200,000 settlement with three Black students who also said they were subjected to racist harassment and discrimination. While making the announcement, the district issued an apology that appeared to address all the affected students and declared that “any form of racism, bigotry, discrimination, or harassment within our schools is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” (Unless white people investigate other white people and found “no direct evidence” that racism ever happened, apparently.)
“The district encourages anyone who observes a student or staff member being harassed or bullied to report it right away,” the statement continued. “Reports of bullying will be thoroughly documented, addressed promptly, and appropriate consequences will be administered.”
Hopefully, the district stays true to its word so more children don’t suffer what Izzy did.
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