Death of bullied Utah girl draws anger over youth suicides, racism

Death of bullied Utah girl draws anger over youth suicides, racism

When her 10-year-old daughter tried spraying air freshener on herself before school one morning, Brittany Tichenor-Cox suspected something was wrong with the sweet little girl whose beaming smile had gone dormant after she started the fifth grade.

She coaxed out of Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor that a boy in her class told her she stank after their teacher instructed the class that they needed to shower. It was the latest in a series of bullying episodes that targeted Izzy, who was autistic and the only black student in class. Other incidents included harassment about her skin colour, eyebrows and a beauty mark on her forehead, her mother said.

Tichenor-Cox informed the teacher, the school and the district about the bullying. She said nothing was done to improve the situation. Then on Nov. 6, at their home near Salt Lake City, Izzy killed herself.

Her shocking death triggered an outpouring of anger about youth suicides, racism in the classroom and the treatment of children with autism — issues that have been highlighted by the nation’s racial reckoning and a renewed emphasis on student mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Utah, the suicide also intensified questions about the Davis School District, which was recently reprimanded by the Justice Department for failing to address widespread racial discrimination.

The district, where black and Asian American students account for roughly 1% of the approximately 73,000 students, initially defended its handling of the bullying allegations but later launched an outside investigation that is ongoing.

“When I was crying out for help for somebody to do something, nobody even showed up for her,” Tichenor-Cox said this week in an interview with the Associated Press. “It just hurts to know that my baby was bullied all day throughout school — from the time I dropped her off to the time I picked her up.”

Being autistic made it difficult for Izzy to find words to express what she was feeling, but her mother sensed her daughter was internalising the messages from school. She asked her mother to get rid of the beauty mark and shave her unibrow. Her mother told her those features made her different and beautiful. She told her mother her teacher didn’t like her and wouldn’t say hi or help with schoolwork.

Izzy’s mother, 31, blames the teacher for allowing the bullying to happen. Prior to this year, she said, Izzy and two of her other children liked the school.

Tichenor-Cox has also called out deep-rooted racism in the predominantly white state of Utah, where she said the N-word that kids called her when she was a child in the 1990s is still hurled at her children three decades later.

But she doesn’t want fury to be her only message. She vows to make Izzy’s life matter by speaking out about bullying, racism and the importance of understanding autism so that no other parent has to suffer like she is.

As she looked at a picture on her cellphone of Izzy smiling with fresh braids in her hair last May, Tichenor-Cox cried as she realised that was her last birthday with her daughter who dreamed of being a professional dancer.

“No parent should have to bury their 10-year old,” she said. “I’m still in shock. … This pushes me to get this out there like this. Mommy is pushing to make sure that this don’t happen to nobody else.”

Davis School District spokesman Christopher Williams did not answer questions about the investigation, the employment status of Izzy’s teacher or about any direct accusations. He instead referred back to a Nov. 12 statement in which the district pledged to do an outside investigation to review its “handling of critical issues, such as bullying, to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all”.

The Justice Department investigation uncovered hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets over the last five years in the district. The probe also found physical assaults, derogatory racial comments and harsher discipline for students of color.

Black students throughout the district told investigators about people referring to them as monkeys or apes and saying that their skin was dirty or looked like faeces. Students also made monkey noises at their Black peers, repeatedly referenced slavery and lynching and told Black students to “go pick cotton” and “you are my slave,” according to the department’s findings.

The district has agreed to take several steps as part of a settlement agreement, including establishing a new department to handle complaints, offering more training and collecting data.

Tichenor-Cox told AP she doesn’t trust the district’s investigation and said the district has zero credibility. Instead, her attorney, Tyler Ayres, hired a private investigator to do their own probe as Tichenor-Cox considers possible legal action.

She and Ayres also said the Justice Department is looking into what happened with Izzy. The agency would not say if it’s investigating what happened to Izzy at the school but said in a statement Wednesday that it is saddened by her death and aware of reports she was harassed because of her race and “disability.” The department said it is committed to ensuring the school district follows through on the plan established in the settlement agreement.

Youth suicides in Utah have levelled off in recent years after an alarming spike from 2011 to 2015, but the rate remains sharply higher than the national average. The state’s 2020 per capita rate was 8.85 suicides among 10- to 17-year-olds per 100,000, compared with 2.3 suicides per 100,000 nationally in 2019, the latest year with data available.

Tributes to Izzy are scattered on social media under #standforizzy. The Utah Jazz basketball team honoured her at a recent game, and players Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles, who has an autistic son, both expressed dismay over what happened, calling it “disgusting”. Other parents from the school district have sent letters to the school board calling out the district’s “dismissive actions”.

Tichenor-Cox and her husband, Charles Cox, have five other children to focus on, so they’re doing all they can to handle the grief while trying to remember the sparkle Izzy brought to their lives for a decade.

“I want her to be remembered of how kind she was, how beautiful she was, how brilliant she was and intelligent she was,” Tichenor-Cox said. “Because if I keep thinking of what happened, it’s just going to put me back, and I’m trying to be strong for her.”

Where to get help:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Australian Open 2022: Tennis Australia destroyed over Peng Shuai T-shirt scandal

Australian Open organisers have been slammed for their handling of a situation that saw spectators ordered to remove items asking “where is Peng Shuai?” Tennis Australia (TA) stood by what ... Read more »

Covid-19 Omicron: Two new high risk locations of interest, including suspected link to Omicron

Two new locations of interest – including in Auckland – have been linked to fresh Covid cases in the community. Latest update – Tarka Indian Eatery, Mission Bay, Auckland. Fri, ... Read more »

Professor Carolyn King's 50-year battle against stoats

She loves weasels but was brought to New Zealand 50 years ago to help eradicate both weasels and stoats. Now, Emeritus Professor Carolyn King, while supporting the goal of a ... Read more »

Dog owner posts $25k reward after pets were stolen from central Auckland home

A dog daycare owner has offered a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the safe return of two treasured pooches who were stolen from her Auckland home. Pets and ... Read more »

The Pan-American Highway: The longest walk in the world

If you love a good long walk, New Zealand isn’t a bad spot to live or travel. Our 10 Great Walks attract roamers and ramblers from around the world. At ... Read more »

Police officer allegedly assaulted during Rotorua mass brawl

A police officer has been allegedly assaulted during a mass fight on a Rotorua street. A police spokeswoman said police were called to reports of disorder on Eason St around ... Read more »

Wind flares up month-old slash fires in Ruapehu

Fires lit in early December to burn forestry slash have flared up again in the Waiouru-Ohakune area, spurred by easterly winds and hot dry conditions. Firefighters spent the weekend battling ... Read more »

Covid-19 Australia: Concession card Rat rollout commences amid stock shortage, struggling pharmacies

More than six million Australians are now eligible for free rapid antigen tests, but pharmacies are pleading for patience as stock levels remain low. The scheme will allow 6.6 million ... Read more »

In my kitchen with... with chef Carl Maunder of State Bistro and State Pasta

Renowned chef Carl Maunder is executive chef, and co-owner, along with his wife Jade Lucas, of New Plymouth eateries State Bistro and State Pasta. The former celebrates all that was ... Read more »

Chef Carl Maunder: Middle Eastern-inspired lamb shoulder with fennel rice pilaf

This recipe is inspired by my time in the Middle East, travelling and working with people from across South Asia who used a lot of different spices in their cooking, ... Read more »

Covid 19 Omicron: Aucklanders react to going back to 'red' traffic light setting

Aucklanders are relatively relaxed about the country moving to the red setting after the prime minister confirmed the highly infectious Omicron variant was circulating in the city. With the sheer ... Read more »

Meat Loaf death: Weber apologises for ill-timed grilled meatloaf recipe

Weber picked the wrong day to suggest grilling meatloaf. The outdoor grill maker has apologised to customers for sending a recipe-of-the-week email earlier on the day of Meat Loaf’s death ... Read more »

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Fight against variant underway, as 'tens of thousands' of daily cases predicted

OMICRON OUTBREAK LATEST:* ‘We could see toilet paper running out in a week’: Supply chain expert* Up to half of NZ could become infected with Omicron* Omicron protocols could see ... Read more »

Opposition says Sarkissian did not take part in resolving major problems facing Armenia

Hiding behind the words of the ‘lack of competences,’ the already former Armenian president repeatedly dodged responsibility in landmark situations, Artur Vanetsyan, former chief of Armenia’s National Security Service and now the leader of the I Have the Honor opposition faction in parliament said Read more »

Covid 19 Omicron: Piers Morgan slams Jacinda Ardern over red light settings

Controversial TV host Piers Morgan has criticised the Government’s measures to slow the spread of Omicron, as the country moves to red light settings. Morgan called New Zealand’s red light ... Read more »

North Otago couple give 126-year-old barn a new lease on life

The options are wide open for North Otago couple James Hutton and Tara Taylor, and their picturesque venue Ben Lomond Barn. The 126-year-old schist barn is situated on the Hutton ... Read more »

Magic offers uplifting shows

Bill Reid doesn’t like to do things by halves — unless it comes to chopping his wife in half that is — or even in thirds. For around 35 years, ... Read more »

Person dies in crash involving car and truck in Waipū, Northland

A woman has died after her car and a truck collided at an intersection in Waipū this morning. She died at the scene of the crash which occurred at the ... Read more »

Cricket world stunned by 'freakiest run-out in history'

If you think you’ve seen it all in cricket, think again. Andre Russell can consider himself extremely unlucky after he fell victim to one of the most bizarre run-outs ever ... Read more »

Otago students' startup partnering with MyFarm

A fledging Dunedin-based investment startup has received a “massive” boost after announcing a working partnership with long-established investment syndicator MyFarm. University of Otago students Alex Thomson and Gabriel Dykes, who ... Read more »

Child wins five-year battle with ACC for birth-related injury cover

An 11-year-old boy left disabled by a botched birth has finally been given ACC cover after a five-year battle. Ben Dickson suffered from a lack of oxygen during a difficult ... Read more »

Is Omicron keeping you awake at night? How to fall asleep in two minutes

As your head hit the pillow last night, did you find your mind swirling with thoughts of Omicron, lock downs and red lights? If recent announcements – and the heat ... Read more »

'This is community empowered': How Wairoa filled the holes in its dental coverage

Matthew Rosenberg, Local Democracy Reporter When Wairoa’s last dentist left town two years ago, residents were faced with a large commute which proved insurmountable for many. So 15 dentists volunteered ... Read more »

Shearing: Floyd Haare wins open final at Tapawera

Another shearer from Southland has joined the list of open shearing competition winners this season with Floyd Haare’s victory on Saturday at the Tapawera Shears, southwest of Nelson. Thirty-four-year-old Haare ... Read more »

Stormy Daniels and lawyer face off at trial over book proceeds

Stormy Daniels, the porn star who catapulted herself and Michael Avenatti to fame with lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, will have a starring role in court beginning Monday when ... Read more »

US rejects calls to immediately sanction Russia over Ukraine

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has rebuffed calls to immediately impose economic sanctions on Russia, saying that doing so would undercut the West’s ability to deter potential Russian ... Read more »

Belgian police fire water cannon, tear gas during COVID curbs protest

By Johnny Cotton BRUSSELS – Tens of thousands of people protested in Brussels on Sunday against COVID-19 restrictions, some clashing with police who fired water cannon and tear gas to ... Read more »

Hastings: One person taken to hospital after three-vehicle crash

A three-vehicle crash in Hastings on Sunday night resulted in one person being taken to hospital and a lane being temporarily closed. Emergency services including police, ambulance and fire services ... Read more »

Prince Harry expected to return to UK for Queen's Jubilee celebrations

Prince Harry is expected to return to the UK for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. The 37-year-old prince – who stepped back from royal life and relocated to the US ... Read more »

Covid-19: Rotorua speedway, tavern new locations of interest

Paradise Valley Speedway has been named as a new location of interest. The Ministry of Health said anyone who was at the speedway meeting on Friday January 21 between 7.30pm ... Read more »

Europe could be headed for pandemic 'endgame': WHO

© Ida Guldbaek Arentsen Kluge delivered optimistic comments but added that it was still too early to consider Covid-19 endemic The Omicron variant has moved the Covid-19 pandemic into a ... Read more »

Dunedin man with rare genetic disorder's 15 year battle for support after misdiagnosis

A Dunedin man with a rare genetic disorder says he has fallen through the cracks of the system that should have been helping him for the past 15 years. David ... Read more »

Covid 19 omicron: 'We could see toilet paper running out in a week': Supply chain expert

The impact of omicron will become apparent in empty supermarket aisles in the coming weeks. Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Auckland University supply chain expert David Robb said we could see ... Read more »

Covid 19 Omicron: Stood down Air NZ workers showing symptoms, says CEO Greg Foran

By RNZ Air New Zealand is expecting more cases of Omicron among its crews, with others now showing symptoms, its CEO Greg Foran says. The national airliner announced yesterday it ... Read more »

Driver seriously hurt after car ploughs into power pole in Dargaville

A person has been critically injured after their car ploughed into a power pole in Dargaville. Senior Sergeant Brian Swann, of Northland Police, said the driver was the only person ... Read more »

Taupō weather report, January 16-22

January continues to be hot and dry. Photo / Supplied January Weather Daytime temperatures for January were yet again above the monthly average last week, with the hottest day of ... Read more »

Armenian president's resignation to give PM chance to consolidate power - opposition

He said Sarkissian’s presidency was "vapid," as is the text of his resignation bid Read more »

Man's warning to Kiwis thinking of international travel after 'COVID nightmare'

A man has issued a warning to fellow New Zealanders looking to pack their bags and head overseas, describing his trip as a “COVID nightmare” and like “dodging bullets”. High ... Read more »

NATO's military activity near CSTO borders in no way strengthens security - CSTO chief

CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas said that he considered the CSTO as a quite effective instrument to ensure security in the organization’s zone of responsibility Read more »

Polar bears take over abandoned island in Russia

On an island between Russia and Alaska, in the abandoned buildings of a meteorological station, polar bears have taken over. In September Russian photographer Dmitry Kokh boarded a yacht and ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic