Brittany Tichenor, a Black mother in North Salt Lake, Utah, is raising awareness about bullying after her 10-year-old daughter recently took her own life as a result of what her mother says was constant harassment at school.
Tichenor said in a recent news conference that she contacted the Davis School District “multiple times” months ago to discuss her concerns about her daughter Isabella’s treatment at the school before the fifth grader hanged herself on Saturday, Nov. 6.
“Even though my baby is gone, I’m going to make sure that I stand for Izzy,” Tichenor said while describing the teasing her daughter — one of the few Black students at less than 2 percent African-American Foxboro Elementary School — endured.
“And I’m going to make sure — for voices that can’t be heard like hers — that this will never happen again to any kid.”
Tichenor said her daughter voiced to her that she didn’t believe her teacher liked her. Isabella, who was autistic, told her mother that she didn’t believe her teacher liked her because she would greet “all the other kids” in her class but would ignore her.
The girl told her mother that students began taunting her after her teacher complained that the students smelled bad — many thinking it was Isabella.
Tichenor said this incident prompted her daughter to carry air freshener in school to use as perfume. Tichenor’s other children have reportedly faced their own issues at school as well. The mother claimed her 7-year-old daughter was called the N-word last September.
Tichenor said she was setting up to help Isabella with a book report this past Saturday before the child kissed her and walked into her room. Tichenor said she stepped away to the garage for less than ten minutes before her two other children found their sister hanging in her closet.
Isabella’s death comes just two weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice announced last month that an investigation discovered the district “ignored or failed to act on hundreds of reports of racially-motivated harassment and discrimination over the course of five years. ”
Hundreds of people gathered at the school in North Salt Lake on the night of Nov. 9 for a vigil held in honor of Isabella. Sapphire Robinson, a licensed child and family therapist, told KSL TV Izzy’s death could have been avoided. “Her death is on Utah’s hands, the people of Utah, the school district,” she said.
The Davis School District said it is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the young girl’s death. In a statement released ABC 4 the district said, “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.”
They continued, “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.”
Tichenor said she plans on creating a nonprofit called “I Stand with Izzy,” telling reporters, “I’m doing this in speaking out because my child harmed herself and I don’t want nobody, another parent to go through what I have to. Now, we’re going to be burying our 10-year-old. Like, it’s surreal.” She added, “Parents, please talk to your kids and even if you see a little sign, get them help as fast as you can.”
In honor of Isbella’s memory the PTA president said the school would be creating a Buddy Bench on the playground where students can go if they need a friend.
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