Utah school district names team who will investigate Black girl’s bullying and suicide, after Tribune request

The review panel at Davis School District will focus on how Izzy Tichenor’s case was handled.

(Tichenor family) Pictured is Isabella "Izzy" Tichenor in this undated family photo.

After previously refusing to release the names, Davis School District has now identified the three people it hired to investigate how it handled multiple reports that 10-year-old student Izzy Tichenor was being bullied before she died by suicide.

The district provided the names late Tuesday in response to a public records request from The Salt Lake Tribune. The members of the review team are:

Brian Garlock, a licensed clinical social worker and owner and director of Youth Health Associates, which provides treatment for youth who have committed sexual misconduct. He is an expert in interviewing children about trauma, according to the district.

Michelle Love-Day, a member of the Utah Ethnic Studies Coalition and founder of RISE Academy, which focuses on Black students learning Black history. She also has worked as an elementary school teacher and administrator.

Abigail Dizon-Maughan, an attorney and former president of the Utah Minority Bar Association. She has served in leadership positions with the NAACP branch in Salt Lake City and has championed LGBTQ issues, as well.

Love-Day, who is Black, and Dizon-Maughan, who is Filipino, give the panel a majority perspective from individuals of color (Garlock is white); this was important to community members who wanted to make sure the panel was fairly representative, as the Tichenor family is Black.

Attempts by The Tribune to reach Love-Day and Garlock on Tuesday were unsuccessful. Dizon-Maughan said she had no comment on the open investigation.

The plan to create the review team was announced shortly after Izzy’s death in early November, after community members demanded a response from the district to the tragedy that some saw as preventable. Izzy’s mother, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, has said that she reported the intense abuse her daughter faced for being Black and autistic to district administrators several times, but the abuse was allowed to continue without intervention.

According to a memorandum of understanding for the review team, obtained by The Tribune in its records request, the team will be tasked with looking into those concerns and how the district responded to the case at Izzy’s school, Foxboro Elementary in North Salt Lake. The team also is being asked to provide recommendations for processes to reduce bullying at the school moving forward.

Christopher Williams, the spokesperson for Davis School District, said in an email response granting The Tribune’s request that “in order to maintain integrity and independence of the investigation, we ask that the members of the team be allowed to conduct their review without interference from the public.”

The district had originally refused to release the names, suggesting that anonymity would allow them to better perform their work. Davis intended to release the identities, along with the final report, when the investigation was completed, Williams said.

Jeffrey Hunt, a media law attorney, countered that withholding the names upfront appeared to be illegal. “The public needs to know who these individuals are,” he said at the time.

The MOU also details what access the team will have to look at district records and interview Foxboro students, whose parents can request that their child not be included.

The document misspells Izzy’s name throughout, referring to her as “Izabelle.” Her full name is spelled Isabella.

When The Tribune pointed that out, Williams responded: “We apologize for misspelling the name. And it certainly doesn’t represent any sort of indifference to any of what’s taken place. We put countless hours into this situation, and we’re going to continue to be putting in countless hours. Once again, our hearts go out to the Tichenor family, and we continue to express our condolences and continue to reach out to the them.”

Williams later indicated that the district intends to create a new MOU with the correct spelling of Izzy’s name.

Izzy’s death occurred a month after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report on Davis’s serious mishandling of reports of racism.

In October, after a two-year investigation, the DOJ found that district administrators intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years — failing to respond to hundreds of reports from Black students after they had been called slaves and the N-word.

The superintendent of Davis, a predominantly white district, has said the staff there are making the changes recommended by the DOJ. But Tichenor-Cox, Izzy’s mom, has said some of her reports about her daughter being bullied came after the DOJ’s findings, and that they were disregarded.

Williams said in forming the panel, the district consulted with the DOJ, as well as others, on who would be best to lead the investigation into the new case. Davis will also provide someone with expertise in autism to be available if the team has questions.

None of the members work for the district, which provides independence for the team. The district has not provided how much each member will make. The MOU does not detail that either. But an accompanying letter from Dizon-Maughan that was part of The Tribune’s record request notes that her billing rate as an attorney is $320 per hour, and she will be requiring a $20,000 retainer for the work.

It’s unclear if the other two members will be making the same.

The MOU notes only that “while the district is paying the investigators for their time and expertise, the district anticipates the review and the report will be objective and free from bias toward the district or the family.”

There is no timeline for when the investigation will be done.

In her letter, Dizon-Maughan also specifically advises that the district look into a legal defense in this case “even if you consider the possibility to be remote” and not to tamper with any evidence. Tichenor-Cox has hired an attorney.