In the months leading up to her death by suicide, 10-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor and her family were displaced and living in the family van, according to a recently released investigative report.
Tichenor, a fifth-grade student at Foxboro Elementary School in the Davis School District, was described by witnesses as a happy, friendly child who always had a smile on her face, according to the report.
“She made her friends laugh and enjoyed – and was good at – four squares. Despite her friendly demeanor, Izzy suffered from personal trauma. Evidence collected by the Team strongly suggests that as of the 2021-2022 school year, Izzy and her family were displaced and living in the family van. Foxboro was unable to confirm or verify that the Tichenor-Cox family was not immune,” the report said.
The Independent Review Team’s report into allegations of harassment, bullying and discrimination based on race and disability against Isabella Tichenor found no direct evidence to support claims that she was bullied because of their race and/or disability.
During the investigation, the team became aware of documented complaints that Izzy had been bullied for her personal hygiene. However, the report notes that the team was authorized by the district to look only at bullying based on race or disability.
However, the three-person investigative team noted that “issues of race, disability and poverty sometimes intersect and, when they do, can further complicate already difficult situations. It can be very difficult to clear one of the others.
For example, Izzy, who was black, had one or more diagnosed disabilities and lived in unstable housing.
“Either could have contributed to the cause of her hygiene issues. When a female student told Izzy she needed to wash her hair, that comment could have been motivated by racial animosity. , could have been an innocuous observation or could have been a disguised insult about poverty,” the report said.
The review was conducted by team members Abby Dizon-Maughan, attorney at Salt Lake law firm Parsons Behle & Latimer; Brian Garlock, a licensed clinical social worker who is an expert in interviewing children about trauma; and education consultant Michelle Love-Day, considered an expert on educational equity.
The team, retained by the school district, began work in November 2021, and the school district received its report on March 30 and released a summary of the report to news outlets the evening of April 1.
The team’s report represents over 400 cumulative hours of work, the review of over 2,600 pages of documents and 47 interviews.
In a school district statement released with the report, the school district reiterated its condolences to the family of Izzy Tichenor and thanked the review team for their work and diligence.
“We are studying the report and reviewing its recommendations. We take this seriously,” the statement read. “We are committed to continuing our ongoing and thorough efforts to foster a welcoming environment for all students in the Davis School District.”
According to the investigation team’s findings, “Foxboro (Elementary School) was aware of allegations that Izzy’s brother was the target of racial slurs and Foxboro investigated these allegations and responded.”
He continued, noting that interviews with staff “did not demonstrate actual knowledge of the district’s definition of ‘bullying,'” and Foxboro did not document or record reports of bullying in a timely manner, administrator or educator interventions and/or communications with the Tichenor family. “
The investigation determined that “nearly all of the notes” from Izzy’s Encore record (student information system) taken during the 2021-22 school year were seized the day her mother, Brittany Tichenor- Cox, informed the school that Izzy had attempted suicide or later.
The report states that Izzy attempted suicide on November 3 and died of her injuries on November 6.
“Out of respect for the Tichenor-Cox family, the details of his attempt and death will not be discussed here,” the report said.
The investigative team also determined that Foxboro Elementary School administrators “failed to timely document in the offending student’s Encore records Ms. Tichenor-Cox’s complaints that the student was bullying Izzy’s sister. The only grades from the 2021-2022 school year that were entered simultaneously were for events regarding or related to Izzy’s suicide attempt and death.
The family’s attorney, Tyler Ayres, did not respond to emails seeking comment.
The independent investigation revealed interviews with several witnesses who said Izzy came to school dirty and smelly. “Izzy’s teachers spoke about Izzy’s hygiene issues, either directly to Izzy or generally among the students without identifying her,” the report said.
At one point, Izzy doused herself with Febreze before going to school the next day after hearing those comments, according to the report.
Izzy’s mother told her teacher that her comments were hurting Izzy’s feelings and to stop making such remarks because the teacher was unaware of the students’ personal circumstances, the report said.
“This professor, however, dismissed Ms Tichenor-Cox’s concerns. The teacher told Ms Tichenor-Cox that she had made comments to her students about hygiene in the past and had no intention of stopping,’ the report said.
While the report criticized the school’s record keeping and the school staff’s apparent lack of knowledge of the school district’s definition of “bullying,” it noted the interactions of a school social worker. school with Izzy before she died.
“After Ms Tichenor-Cox told the family social worker that Izzy was taking her teacher’s comments personally, the family social worker met with Izzy. Izzy told the family’s social worker that she believed her teacher was talking about her when she told the class they smelled bad. The family’s social worker sympathized with Izzy and agreed that her living situation must have been stressful. After speaking with Izzy, the family’s social worker prepared a hygiene pack to give to Izzy, which Izzy happily accepted,” according to the report.
In September 2021, Tichenor-Cox told school staff that her family “was struggling financially, had unstable housing, and needed support,” the report said.
“In response to the family’s request, Foxboro has found funds, clothing and other supplies to donate to the Tichenor-Coxes. Foxboro also provided a hygiene pack for Izzy.
The review team concluded that the Foxboro school cared about the Tichenor-Coxes and provided them with support as the family faced housing instability.
“Those in Foxboro who spoke to Izzy with compassion and acted diligently as advocates for the Tichenor-Cox family should be commended. There is no doubt that Izzy’s death had an immeasurable impact on the community of Foxboro,” the report states.
That said, “the school’s support, however, does not excuse what the team saw as failures to protect Izzy Tichenor.”
“To cultivate the safe community that Foxboro strives to embody, administrators and educators must investigate every allegation of bullying, regardless of the alleged motive or perpetrator. Ms. Tichenor-Cox has reported at least one incident which she claimed constituted bullying at Foxboro. Foxboro had an obligation and responsibility to Izzy to investigate Ms. Tichenor-Cox’s report. Yet Foxboro dismissed and failed to timely document her As a result, Foxboro failed to conduct the investigation that Izzy was due and deserved.
About two weeks before Izzy Tichenor’s death, the Justice Department announced the results of the two-year investigation in which black students in the Davis School District told investigators they were routinely called the N-word or other racial epithets by non-black students. , and were told their skin was dirty or looked like feces, according to a DOJ press release.
“Many black students said the harassment was so prevalent and happened so often in front of adults that they concluded school employees condoned the behavior and thought it would be futile to report it further,” said said the DOJ.
The DOJ investigation noted the Davis District’s “ineffective response” to incidents of racial harassment “for years.”
As part of its settlement with the Justice Department, the school district has embarked on multi-faceted reforms that will span several years. Some of the demands include the creation of a new department to deal with complaints of racial discrimination; train staff on how to identify, investigate and respond to complaints of racial harassment and discriminatory disciplinary practices; and educate students and parents on how to report harassment and discrimination.