Utah girl, 10, dies by suicide after being bullied for being Black, autistic

Isabella Faith Tichenor was found dead by her mother on Saturday

A 10-year-old Black autistic girl died by suicide over the weekend after repeatedly being racially bullied at school. 

The girl’s mom, Brittany Tichenor-Cox, reached out to Davis School District several times to report that her daughter, Isabella Faith Tichenor, was bullied by classmates and her teacher for being a Black special needs student. Tichenor-Cox said school officials failed her child by allowing the harassment to foster for months without intervention, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Isabella “Izzy” Faith Tichenor thegrio.com
Isabella “Izzy” Faith Tichenor (Credit: Tichenor Family)

“Even though my baby is gone, I’m going to make sure I stand for Izzy,” Tichenor-Cox said. “I will never get to see her again …I will never…she was 10 years old. She was only 10,” she said. 

Isabella, who reportedly died by suicide by hanging, was found dead Saturday by her mother.

Izzy’s grandfather Gregory Tichenor told The Sun that the bullying had been “going on for months and nothing has been done.”

“It was both verbal and physical,” he added. 

Gregory said Izzy “was close to her five siblings.”

“She had told her mom she loved her and she loved God and that was the last time they spoke. Then she was found,” he said.

The death of the fifth-grader comes weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice outlined in a bombshell report that Davis School District administrators have intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years.

Black students have reportedly been under attack by suspected white supremacists within the student body. Administrators are said to have failed to respond to hundreds of reports from students about being called slaves, the N-word, and threatened with lynchings if they didn’t go “pick cotton” as instructed by their white classmates. 

“As a consequence of this dismissive attitude to serious racial harassment, a district-wide racially hostile environment went unabated,” the department concluded in the report. The report notes that “the district left students of color vulnerable to continued abuse.”

“Some students, now in middle and high school, said they had experienced racial harassment each year since they were in kindergarten,” the DOJ report noted, per The Salt Lake Tribune. “Students who attended school in other districts told us that the harassment they experienced in Davis schools was worse by far.”

In a recent statement, the district said it “takes these findings very seriously.”

“They do not reflect the values of this community and the expectations of the district,” the statement said of the report’s findings. “The district pledges to correct these practices.”

The predominantly white school district in northern Utah is accused of condoning the racism and discrimination against Black students. 

The district issued a statement Monday about Isabella’s death and the family’s response, saying it “will continue to provide help to them and others impacted by this tragedy.”

“We, like everyone, are devastated by the death of this child,” the district said. “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.”

Local activists have slammed the district’s statement, as officials never addressed the concerns about Izzy’s bullying before she committed suicide. 

“I don’t think they’re listening,” said Darlene McDonald, an activist with the Utah Black Roundtable and the Utah Educational Equity Coalition. “Their colorblindness is causing the death of our children.”

“The biggest issue is that the district just hasn’t addressed anything, racist incidents and bullying. They just don’t respond to it,” said Kathleen Christy, leader of the Utah Ethnic Studies Coalition.

“What’s real is what caused this young girl’s death,” said McDonald. “The real problem is being ignored.”

“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,” Tichenor-Cox said.

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