Several hundred people gathered at a vigil Tuesday night to remember Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a 10-year-old autistic girl who died by suicide after reportedly being bullied at school. Izzy died on Saturday, November 6. Her family members are accusing 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, AP reported.
Tyler Ayres, an attorney representing Izzy’s family, 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.
“As any parent would, we reported this abuse to her teachers, the school administration, and the district administration. Nothing. Nothing was done to protect Izzy. Children did not have their behavior corrected so the torment of this child continued day after day,” Izzy’s mother Brittany Tichenor-Cox said Monday, according to KUTV.
The family now want to know why the alleged verbal abuse they believe caused their daughter to take her own life was not addressed.
The Department of Justice recently found that officials of the Davis School District that oversees Foxboro were “deliberately indifferent” to reports of bullying and racial harassment. Black students told investigators that they were called slaves and the N-word by White and non-Black students.
“We found that the district was deliberately indifferent to the racially hostile climate in many of its schools,” the Department of Justice stated. “Despite being on notice of pervasive racially hostile incidents across District schools, frequently the District ignored parent, student, and advocate complaints completely, dismissed them as ‘inconclusive’ even when corroborated by other witnesses or merely told the harassing students to not do it again, even when the student had harassed Black or Asian-American students previously.”
The Davis School District has said that it is investigating Izzy’s case. It released the following statement after Izzy’s death.
“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.”
Izzy’s mom said she saw no signs that her daughter had suicidal thoughts. “I didn’t know she thought like that, I was so involved with her at school,” she said. “You don’t know what a child is going through mentally.”
Izzy’s family members have launched a GoFundMe to raise money to give their daughter a proper burial.
About 800, 000 people take their own lives every year, which is one person every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are indications that for each adult who died by suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide. Suicide attempts are highly frowned upon in various jurisdictions globally, with culprits facing punishments such as imprisonment.
Nevertheless, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 29, occurring throughout the lifespan, the WHO said. The American Psychological Association has said that it is uncommon for children ages 10 and younger to die by suicide. Depression is often believed to be the major cause of these deaths. Most young people who suffer depression caused mainly by sadness, loneliness, grief and disappointments, usually have no one to turn to for support and basically lack professional help.
WHO believes that “effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts.”