SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah school district said Friday it will open an independent investigation into alleged bullying of a 10-year-old girl who died by suicide after her family says she was harassed by fellow students for being Black and autistic.
The family of Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor accuses the district of not doing enough to protect their daughter after they reported the bullying to the school.
The outside probe marks an escalation of action after the Davis School District said earlier this week it was doing its own investigation and that it had responded appropriately and “worked extensively with the family” over their complaints.
The district, where Black students account for only about 1% of the approximately 73,000 students north of Salt Lake City, was recently reprimanded by the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to address widespread racial discrimination.
“The death of Izzy is tragic and devastating,” the district said in a statement sent by spokeswoman Shauna Lund. “We will be bringing in an independent investigation to look further into this and review our handling of critical issues, such as bullying, to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students.”
Tyler Ayres, an attorney representing Izzy’s family and her mother Brittany Tichenor-Cox, said Izzy was bullied by a small group of other students at Foxboro Elementary School in North Salt Lake who called her the N-word, told her she was smelly and made fun of her for being autistic. Ayres said the family reported the bullying to teachers, as well as school and district administrators, but nothing was done to stop the harassment.
Ayres didn’t immediately respond Friday for comment about the independent investigation.
The death last weekend of “Izzy” Tichenor, which police are investigating as a suicide, has triggered widespread outrage including from Utah Jazz players Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles, who has an autistic son.
The Jazz held a moment of silence before their game Thursday night hours after Mitchell and Ingles expressed dismay and anger over what happened.
“It’s disgusting that it had to end like this for Izzy and her family,” said Ingles, who spoke with the girl's mother and promised to help.
“It’s mind boggling, it’s sad, it’s just flat-out disgusting,” Mitchell said.