The family of Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, the 10-year-old autistic student who committed suicide after she was allegedly bullied by her classmates, will receive a $2 million settlement from Utah’s Davis School District.
According to The Associated Press, the settlement, which was approved on Tuesday, was reached after Izzy’s family filed a lawsuit against the school district following the minor’s death in 2021. In the wake of Tichenor’s death, her family members accused Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake City, Utah, of not doing enough to protect their daughter who they said was bullied for being Black and autistic.
Tyler Ayres, an attorney representing Izzy’s family, also said the fifth-grader was bullied by students in her class who told her she was smelly, called her the N-word, and laughed at her for being autistic. The lawsuit also stated that Izzy was the only Black student in her class, and the deceased girl’s family had notified the school’s teachers and administrators about the bullying.
In the wake of Izzy’s death, the district opened an independent investigation – though it previously said it had properly addressed the bullying complaints made by the 10-year-old’s family. The investigation determined that a greater portion of the family’s account – including Izzy being mistreated by staff – was accurate. It, however, found “no direct evidence” that pinpointed to Izzy’s bullying particularly stemming from her race or disability, The Associated Press reported. The investigation also proposed the implementation of policies to address bullying.
“The District 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 said in a joint statement with Izzy’s family.
Izzy’s suicide came some weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice in a federal civil rights investigation determined Black and Asian American students in Davis School District had experienced widespread incidents of racial harassment and discrimination. The investigation also determined the school district had not put in the effort to stop such issues.
Utah school districts, per legislation passed by lawmakers in the predominantly White state, must now track cases pertaining to bullying and racism in schools, The Associated Press reported.
The district on Tuesday also publicly apologized and said it had agreed to pay another $200,000 to three Black students who alleged they were discriminated against on a daily basis.
“Any form of racism, bigotry, discrimination, or harassment within our schools is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The district encourages anyone who observes a student or staff member being harassed or bullied to report it right away. Reports of bullying will be thoroughly documented, addressed promptly, and appropriate consequences will be administered,” it said.