Editor’s note • This article discusses suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.
Davis School District officials on Tuesday said they are in the final stages of selecting an independent team to investigate the bullying of fifth-grader Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, whose mother said the 10-year-old endured abuse for being Black and autistic before she died by suicide Nov. 6.
The district first announced the investigation on Nov. 12. The team will include an expert in child trauma, an expert in educational practices and an expert in law, according to a statement. Davis School District Superintendent Reid Newey could not give a more specific timeline on when the investigation will take place.
Just a few weeks before Izzy’s death, a report from the U.S. Department of Justice showed that the district had intentionally ignored hundreds of reports of racial harassment. Newey during a school board workshop meeting Tuesday said the district accepts the findings. But he said that the district has a strong track record of addressing such allegations with urgency, and that officials are taking the situation seriously.
In a statement, Board of Education President John Robison said: “When the Department of Justice investigation started two-and-a-half years ago, every school administrator began extensive training in investigating, assessing and responding to all racial harassment allegations. With the release of the Department of Justice’s findings, every school administrator continues to be trained.”
Newey said during the meeting that the district has prioritized a culture of equity and inclusion in its strategic plan, and that over the past five years, they have worked to build more diversity within the district’s teachers and administrators. He also referenced inclusivity trainings implemented for teachers.
Izzy’s mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, has said that she reached out to the district several times to discuss the bullying of Izzy from both her teacher and classmates, but the abuse was allowed to continue without intervention. Newey said Izzy’s family “never approached the district, per se,” and that it happened at the school level, at Foxboro Elementary.
According to Robison’s statement, the district provided “extensive resources” to the Tichenor family since enrolling their children. The statement noted that the family continued to have their children attend Davis schools after moving from the district. “That was because of the relationship they had with our schools and teachers,” Robison said.
Robison in the statement said that he and school board members, the superintendent, administrators, school personnel and social workers have met daily since Izzy’s death.
“As for the district and its schools, every incident of harassment and bullying is investigated,” Robison said.
Newey said the district is waiting on the independent review to make any further decisions.